Chemical Releases

When a flare went out at an Oxychem plant in south Texas and Butadiene was consequently released, the company's representatives sent over one thousand nearby residents to their local physicians. The problem was that none of those local physicians knew what Butadiene was, what it caused, or what amounts were released. After dozens of medical reports with entirely different perspectives and opinions began arriving, we were contacted to communicate with these physicians. We wrote a white paper fact-sheet, attached relevant literature, explained the release and the potential exposures and sent that to nearly 100 physicians in the area. Further, we invited the physicians to contact us with questions. With better information and an open invitation to contact us, the physicians became more educated, more rational in their assessments and better partners in an overall health-based communication strategy for residents of the community.

Chlorine Gas Release from Railroad Car Derailment

A rail car overturned and cracked open near a small West Virginia town in the middle of the night, releasing chlorine gas. A few of the first responders were overcome by the vapors and treated at the scene for respiratory complaints. There were a few homes in the immediate vicinity which were evacuated for several hours, but the residents were permitted to return by morning. Throughout the next day, after the community learned of the incident, the emergency room of the local hospital and physicians' offices were flooded with people complaining of a wide array of symptoms from cough to fever to back pain, hair loss, bleeding and abdominal cramping. Within days, our physicians and toxicologist, who were asked to become involved, arranged a meeting with local and emergency room physicians. We educated them about the expected acute effects of chlorine gas: primarily, immediate respiratory tract irritation and the chronic effects: essentially only seen following significant, acute exposure, which did not occur to any of residents of the town.

Thus, from a "Community Risk Management" perspective, the risks from this incident were mitigated by:

  • Creating awareness amongst the medical community as to the expected clinical course of chlorine gas exposure
  • Creating alignment in the communications with the residents to ensure a consistent, factual, response was delivered
  • Promptly responding to any concerns of the residents.

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