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Public Health Risks of Railroad Hazardous Substance Emergency Events

Orr, Maureen F. MS; Kaye, Wendy E. PhD; Zeitz, Perri MPH; Powers, Marilyn E. BA; Rosenthal, Lisa BA

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: February 2001 - Volume 43 - Issue 2 - p 94-100
Original Articles

The number of railroad events reported to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s Hazardous Substances Emergency Events Surveillance system increased from 84 in 1993 to 177 in 1998. Comparisons of data on railroad and non-railroad events were made. The results overall indicated a greater potential impact of railroad events on public health. A median number of 2039 persons were living within a 1-mile radius of railroad events versus 982 for non-railroad events. The percentage of events during times when people are more likely to be home was also greater for railroad events. Railroad event victims were more likely to need hospital treatment than non-railroad event victims, which suggested the need for better community planning, reevaluation of current federal regulations and priorities for railroad hazardous material transport, and enhanced railroad industry commitment to safety.

From the Division of Health Studies (Ms Orr, Dr Kaye, Ms Zeitz), Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Atlanta, Ga.; the Railway Workers Hazardous Materials Training Program, George Meany Center for Labor Studies, Pinehurst, N.C. (Ms Powers); and the National Clearinghouse for Worker Safety & Health Training, Ruth Ruttenberg and Associates, Bethesda, Md. (Ms Rosenthal).

Address correspondence to: Maureen F. Orr, MS, Epidemiologist, Division of Health Studies, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 1600 Clifton Road, NE, Mailstop E-31, Atlanta, GA 30333.

Copyright © 2001 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine