Study looks at chlorine gas disaster

Emergency Management Alert, December 30, 2008

A new study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine delivers important insight into how to plan for and deal with an accidental or terrorist release of chlorine, a potentially deadly gas.

The study focuses on an incident in Graniteville, S.C., in January 2005, where a freight train carrying three tankers crashed into a parked car, releasing between 42 and 60 tons of chlorine gas. The gas infiltrated a nearby textile mill, in which 180 people were working the overnight shift.

On the night of the disaster, eight people died at the scene. At least 525 people were treated in emergency rooms and 71 were hospitalized. David Van Sickle, Ph.D., a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholar at the University of Wisconsin and lead author of the report, said that hospitals need to be able to quickly recognize signs of chlorine exposure, and have a plan in place involving mechanical ventilators.

Although small, harmless occupational exposures to chlorine occur regularly, researchers sought to learn about the health effects of this widespread exposure, which would also help healthcare facilities in planning for this kind of disaster.

To read the full press release, click here.


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