Phosphine Exposure Among Emergency Responders – Amarillo, Texas, January 2017

Phosphine is a highly toxic gas that forms when aluminium phosphide, a restricted-use pesticide typically used in agricultural settings, reacts with water. Acute exposure can lead to a wide range of respiratory, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal symptoms, and can be fatal. On January 2, 2017, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) was notified by the Texas Panhandle Poison Centre of an acute phosphine exposure incident in Amarillo, Texas. DSHS investigated potential occupational phosphine exposures among the 51 on-scene emergency responders; 40 (78.4%) did not use respiratory protection during response operations. Fifteen (37.5%) of these 40 responders received medical care for symptoms or as a precaution after the incident, and seven (17.5%) reported new or worsening symptoms consistent with phosphine exposure within 24 hours of the incident. Emergency response organizations should ensure that appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is used during all incidents when an unknown hazardous substance is suspected. Additional evaluation is needed to identify targeted interventions that increase emergency responder PPE use during this type of incident.

Authors: Hall EM, Patel K, Victory KR, Calvert GM, Nogueira LM, Bojes HK. ; Full Source: MMWR Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report. 2018 Apr 6;67(13):387-389. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6713a2.

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