CDC: Phosphine Exposure Incident Reveals Need for Better PPE Training among Emergency Responders
A report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention describes a January 2017 incident in Amarillo, Texas, that resulted in the exposure of emergency responders to phosphine. Acute exposure to phosphine, a highly toxic gas, can cause a variety of respiratory, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal symptoms, and can be fatal.  The source of exposure was the application of aluminum phosphide, a pesticide, at a family residence in Amarillo. Over several days, phosphine was released as the pesticide reacted with water, first from ambient humidity and then from attempts to wash away the pesticide. Ultimately a 9-1-1 call was placed to report that occupants were experiencing shortness of breath and loss of consciousness. An investigation determined that 40 of the 51 emergency responders did not use respiratory protection during the response. Fifteen received medical treatment following the incident, and seven reported new or worsening symptoms consistent with phosphine exposure within 24 hours. Most of the responders had received emergency response training and were aware of their agency’s standard procedures for emergency responses. CDC’s report concludes that the incident illustrates the need “to identify targeted interventions that effectively increase appropriate PPE use among emergency responders during incidents involving such unknown hazards.” Read more in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.