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J Environ Health. 2007 Nov;70(4):17-24; discussion 40, 45.

Acute hazardous substance releases resulting in adverse health consequences in children: Hazardous Substances Emergency Events Surveillance system, 1996-2003.

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Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Division of Health Studies, Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch, Atlanta, GA 30345, USA.


Because of their small size and ongoing organ development, children may be more susceptible than adults to the harmful effects of toxic chemicals. The objective of the study reported here was to identify frequent locations, released substances, and factors contributing to short-term chemical exposures associated with adverse health consequences experienced by children. The study examined the Hazardous Substances Emergency Events Surveillance (HSEES) system data from 1996-2003. Eligible events involved the acute release of a hazardous substance associated with at least one child being injured. The study found that injured children were predominantly at school, home, or a recreational center when events took place. School-related events were associated with the accidental release of acids and the release of pepper spray by pranksters. Carbon monoxide poisonings occurring in the home, retail stores, entertainment facilities, and hotels were responsible for about 10 percent of events involving child victims. Chlorine was one of the top chemicals harmful to children, particularly at public swimming pools. Although human error contributed to the majority of releases involving child victims, equipment failure was responsible for most chlorine and ammonia releases. The authors conclude that chemical releases resulting in injury to children occur mostly in schools, homes, and recreational areas. Surveillance of acute hazardous chemical releases helped identify contributing causes and can guide the development of prevention outreach activities. Chemical accidents cannot be entirely prevented, but efforts can be taken to provide safer environments in which children can live, learn, and play. Wide dissemination of safety recommendations and education programs is required to protect children from needless environmental dangers.

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