Geographic distribution of acute chemical incidents – hazardous substances emergency events surveillance, nine States, 1999-2008

Hazardous chemicals are transported and used widely in the United States, and acute chemical releases (lasting <72 hours) are not uncommon. Characterising acute incidents within geographic areas can help researchers identify spatial patterns and differences and enable public and environmental health and safety practitioners, members of local emergency planning committees, preparedness coordinators, industry managers, emergency responders, and others to prepare for and respond to chemical incidents. The Hazardous Substances Emergency Events Surveillance (HSEES) system was operated by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) during January 1991-September 2009 to collect data on hazardous chemical releases that would enable researchers to describe the public health consequences of these acute releases and to develop activities aimed at reducing the ensuing harm to the public. This report summarises data for the geographic distribution of reported acute incidents by states, counties, and Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) from the nine states (Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin) that participated in HSEES during its last 10 full years of data collection (1999-2008). A total of 57,975 acute incidents occurred during 1999-2008; five MSAs accounted for 40.1% of all incidents. Texas reported 41% of all incidents reported by the nine states during the 10-year study period, and Colorado reported the fewest incidents (3.4%). Storage, use, and transport of hazardous substances often are associated with unanticipated releases. In general, releases occurred more frequently in areas that use or store more hazardous chemicals and in urbanised areas compared with rural areas. In rural areas, most incidents were related to the transport of hazardous chemicals. The primary economic activities in an area had a strong influence on the frequency and type of chemicals released in the area. Exposure to hazardous chemicals can have immediate and serious health consequences. Harmful releases can occur wherever hazardous chemicals are used, stored, or transported. The time and location of releases is unpredictable. Taken together, these elements underscore the need for preparedness. A culture of safety, prevention, and preparedness can minimise the consequences of future incidents. Author: Young R. ;Full Source: MMWR Surveillance Summaries. 2015 Apr 10;64 Suppl 2:32-8. ;