Door-to-door Porter Ranch health survey starts Thursday following massive gas leak

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Spurred by ongoing health complaints, Los Angeles County Public Health officials are launching a three-day, door-to-door health survey on Thursday of Porter Ranch residents who live close to the site of the massive gas leak.

"The purpose is to gather more information on health symptoms currently being experienced," said Dr. Cyrus Rangan, director of the L.A. County health department's Bureau of Toxicology and Environmental Assessment. 

Rangan told reporters Wednesday that since the blown-out well was capped Feb. 18, his agency has received nearly 300 health complaints, mostly from those who had returned home after being temporarily relocated during the leak.

The symptoms they're complaining of, he said, are similar to those reported during the leak: nausea, abdominal discomfort, headaches, dizziness and respiratory problems. 

Rangan said that between the time the massive natural gas leak was first reported last October to the day workers plugged it, his offices received between 700 and 800 health complaints.  

The door-to-door survey, which will be conducted within a two- to three-mile radius of the well, is to help officials figure out what’s going on in Porter Ranch. Rangan said that county health employees will conduct the survey and will leave behind printed material about the survey for residents who may be away from home at the time of the visit.

Meanwhile, the county health department said, an indoor air survey of up to 200 homes supposed to have started is on hold.

"As of the beginning of last week we thought [protocols for the study] were nearly finalized," said Angelo Bellomo, the county health department's deputy director for health protection. 

But, he said, a review by other partner agencies suggested "we need to go back to the drawing board."

Bellomo said that his office has requested assistance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help design a study that will provide "meaningful results."

Relocated residents who return home, meanwhile, should open windows and doors to air out the house and then turn on the ventilation system for at least two hours, said Bellomo.

"That should flush out the gasses that may have accumulated," he said. 

Those who find an oily film either inside or outside the home or on their vehicles are advised not to to try to clean it up or to touch it in any way.  Instead, Rangan said, residents should report the finding to the public health department, which on March 8 ordered Southern California Gas Company to conduct and pay for any such cleanup.

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