SC Train Crash Kills 8 -
200 Sickened As Chlorine Leaks

By Ariel Harat
New York Times
From Patricia Doyle, PhD
From ProMED-mail
At least 8 people died and more than 200 were treated at hospitals after a 42-car freight train crashed into a smaller one early Thursday morning and leaked chlorine gas in Graniteville, South Carolina, authorities said.
Most of the injured were residents suffering from respiratory difficulty, said Thom Berry, a spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Gov. Mark Sanford declared a state of emergency for Aiken County, S.C., and officials told residents within a mile of the crash site to leave. [The national news reported the evacuation of 5400 people - Mod.TG]
Area residents went to 2 local schools, where paramedics evaluated them and sent many to hospitals, where more than 50 were admitted. The authorities did not immediately release the identities of the dead or the causes of their deaths.
Susan Terpay, a spokeswoman for Norfolk Southern, which owns both trains, said that the larger train's engineer was fatally injured in the crash, which she said occurred at 2:40 a.m. Its conductor was hospitalized, she said. The cause of the crash was not known. Ms. Terpay said that the larger train was en route from Macon, Georgia to Columbia, S.C., while the smaller train was stationary on a rail siding in downtown Graniteville, which is about 15 miles northeast of Augusta, GA.
Afterward, the 2 locomotives of the larger train and 14 of its cars lay in a jumble, with 1 car leaking all its chlorine gas, Ms. Terpay said. The train was also carrying 2 other hazardous chemicals, sodium hydroxide and cresol, she said.
A team from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived to investigate, and the Federal Railroad Administration said it was sending a 9-member team to assist the safety board investigators.
Chlorine gas is moderately soluble in water. It reacts with the moisture in the respiratory system to result in irritation of the respiratory system, the eyes, the nose, and almost any other mucus membrane. The irritation is prolonged in moist conditions. Chlorine may combine with the water to form hypochlorous and hydrochloric acid, which are intensely irritating.
Chlorine gas is greenish-yellow and generally heavier than air, so it stays near the ground; without a wind, or in damp conditions, it is not immediately dissipated. Chlorine gas toxicity produces acute effects including inflammation of the conjunctivae, nose, pharynx, larynx, trachea, and bronchi. Irritation of the airway mucosa causes local edema or swelling and may be secondary to active arterial and capillary hyperemia. Plasma exudation causes alveolar edema, resulting in pulmonary congestion, which may lead to death, particularly in individuals with compromised respiratory systems.
The eyes may burn and tear and corneal ulcers may occur. Generally the eyes will heal without many long-lasting sequelae.
Generally the affected individuals have a cough, chest pain, eye pain, nausea or vomiting, tearing, pain and tightness in the throat, choking and headache. These must be differentiated from the symptoms of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, intoxication with phosgene, cyanide, hydrogen sulfide and ammonia.
Although chlorine gas has a detectable odor, our sense of smell does not tell us when it is above a dangerous level.
Sources of exposure to chlorine include swimming pools, sewer systems, industrial bleaching and chemical warfare. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list. Chlorine gas was 1st used by the Germans in 1915 in World War 1.- Mod.TG
Patricia A. Doyle, PhD
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