On Saturday 4 May 2013, a train transporting chemicals derailed in the village of Wetteren (Belgium) and caused a leak of acrylonitrile (ACN). This study was undertaken to assess the human exposure to acrylonitrile in the local population with the highest suspected exposure. Between May 18-25, 242 residents participated in the study. N-2-cyanoethylvaline (CEV), a biomarker that is highly specific for ACN exposure, was measured in the blood. To account for potential influence by smoking, cotinine was determined in the urine. Participants also filled in a short questionnaire. In the evacuated zone, 37.3% of the non-smokers and 40.0% of the smokers had CEV concentrations above the reference values of 10 and 200pmol/g globin, respectively, at the time of the train accident. Spatial mapping of the CEV concentrations depending on the residential address showed a distribution pattern following the sewage system. The train derailment resulted in a highly atypical sequence-of-events. In addition to exposure in the direct vicinity of the site of the train derailment, exposure also occurred via the sewage system, into which acrylonitrile had entered shortly after the accident.
Authors: De Smedt T, De Cremer K, Vleminckx C, Fierens S, Mertens B, Van Overmeire I, Bader M, De Paepe P, Göen T, Nemery B, Schettgen T, Stove C, Van Oyen H, Van Loco J, Van Nieuwenhuyse A. ;Full Source: Toxicology Letters. 2014 Dec 15;231(3):344-51. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2014.09.009. Epub 2014 Sep 16. ;