Psychological Risk Factors for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Workers After Toxic Chemical Spill in Gumi, South Korea

The extent and severity of the psychological effects following chemical release disasters have not been widely reported. The aim of this study was to examine the prevalence of hydrogen fluoride (HF)-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and to identify associated psychological risk factors. On September 2012, an estimated 8 to 12 tons of HF gas, which dissolves in air moisture to form droplets of corrosive hydrofluoric acid, escaped from an industrial complex in Gumi, South Korea. Ten months later, structured questionnaires that included items from the Impacts of Event Scale (revised Korean version) as well as questions about demographic and psychological risk factors related to PTSD were distributed to workers in the affected area. The prevalence rate of PTSD was 5.7%. The odds of PTSD in non-alcohol-dependent workers (odds ratio [OR] = 3.10, 95% confidence interval [CI] = [1.27, 7.60]) was significantly higher than in alcohol-independent workers. The OR for PTSD in workers with anxiety (OR = 7.63, 95% CI = [2.10, 27.71) was significantly higher than the OR workers without anxiety. The odds of PTSD in workers with high perceived stress scale (PSS) scores (OR = 8.72, 95 % CI = [2.29, 33.16]) was significantly higher than for workers with low PSS. Alcohol dependence, psychiatric symptoms at the time of the event, anxiety, and high PSS were associated with HF-related PTSD. The authors concluded that long-term employee assistance programs are needed to assist occupational health nurses and clinicians to reduce PTSD after industrial disasters.

Authors: Song JY, Jeong KS, Choi KS, Kim MG, Ahn YS. ; Authors: Workplace Health & Safety. 2018 Feb 1:2165079917750168. doi: 10.1177/2165079917750168. [Epub ahead of print]