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Public Health Rep. 2007 Nov-Dec;122(6):784-92.

Rapid assessment of exposure to chlorine released from a train derailment and resulting health impact.

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Epidemic Intelligence Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA.



After a train derailment released approximately 60 tons of chlorine from a ruptured tanker car, a multiagency team performed a rapid assessment of the health impact to determine morbidity caused by the chlorine and evaluate the effect of this mass-casualty event on health-care facilities.


A case was defined as death or illness related to chlorine exposure. Investigators gathered information on exposure, treatment received, and outcome through patient questionnaires and medical record review. An exposure severity rating was assigned to each patient based on description of exposure, distance from derailment, and duration of exposure. A case involving death or hospitalization > or = 3 nights was classified as a severe medical outcome. Logistic regression was used to examine factors associated with severe medical outcomes.


Nine people died, 72 were hospitalized in nine hospitals, and 525 were examined as outpatients. Fifty-one people (8%) had a severe medical outcome. Of 263 emergency department visits within 24 hours of the incident, 146 (56%) were in Augusta, Georgia; at least 95 patients arrived at facilities in privately owned vehicles. Patients with moderate-to-extreme exposure were more likely to experience a severe medical outcome (relative risk: 15.2; 95% confidence interval 4.8, 47.8) than those with a lower rating.


The rapid investigation revealed significant morbidity and mortality associated with an accidental release of chlorine gas. Key findings that should be addressed during facility, community, state, and regional mass-casualty planning include self-transport of symptomatic people for medical care and impact on health-care facilities over a wide geographic area.

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