NIOSHTIC-2 Publications Search
Chemical fire at toxic waste disposal plant: epidemiologic study of exposure to smoke and fumes.
Halperin-W; Landrigan-PJ; Altman-R; Iaci-AW; Morse-DL; Needham-LL
J Med Soc N J 1981 Aug; 78(9):591-594
Health effects of exposure to fire in a waste chemical disposal factory in New Jersey were investigated. The waste disposal factory consisted of storage tanks, high temperature incinerators, and ancillary buildings. The waste included polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), benzene (71432), methylene-chloride (75092), aniline (62533), and sludge. Those present at the fire included firefighters, company employees, police, paramedics, journalists, and spectators. There were 440 persons surveyed by questionnaire, and soil samples were taken and analyzed by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. Respiratory symptoms were common: 23 percent had throat irritations, 17 percent had nonproductive coughs, 12 percent had chest pains, 6 percent had productive coughs, and 0.7 percent had hemoptysis. Neurological symptoms included headaches in 37 percent and dizziness in 17 percent. Fourteen percent had nausea or vomiting, and 13 percent suffered skin irritations. Most symptoms occurred on the day of or day after the fire. Firefighters were especially susceptible to respiratory symptoms. There was no evidence of age specific attack or special suffering among those who had a history of heart or lung disease. Laboratory analysis of the soil showed no evidence of benzenes. The authors recommend that firefighters be well protected by respiratory equipment and that toxicology experts be on hand should similar catastrophes occur.
Industrial-wastes; Toxic-effects; Respiratory-irritants; Fire-hazards; Occupational-exposure; Safety-equipment; Toxic-vapors; Safety-practices
71-43-2; 75-09-2; 62-53-3
Issue of Publication
Journal of the Medical Society of New Jersey
Page last reviewed: May 5, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division