Lessons learned from chlorine intoxications in swimming pools: The challenge of pediatric mass toxicological events

Ofer Lehavi, Adi Leiba, Yehudit Dahan, Dagan Schwartz, Odeda Benin-Goren, Rama Schwartz, Arie Augarten, Josef Ben-Ari, Yoram Ben-Yehuda, Gali Weiss, Yeheskel Levi, Yaron Bar-Dayan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Introduction: The classical doctrine of mass toxicological events provides general guidelines for the management of a wide range of "chemical" events. The guidelines include provisions for the: (1) protection of medical staff with personal protective equipment; (2) simple triage of casualties; (3) airway pro-tection and early intubation; (4) undressing and decontamination at the hos-pital gates; and (5) medical treatment with antidotes, as necessary. A number of toxicological incidents in Israel during the summer of 2005 involved chlo-rine exposure in swimming pools. In the largest event, 40 children were affected. This study analyzes its medical management, in view of the Israeli Guidelines for Mass Toxicological Events. Methods: Data were collected from debriefings by the Israeli Home Front Command, emergency medical services (EMS), participating hospitals, and hospital chart reviews. The timetable of the event, the number and severity of casualties evacuated to each hospital, and the major medical and logistical problems encountered were analyzed according to the recently described methodology of Disastrous Incident Systematic Analysis Through-Components, Interactions, Results (DISAST-CIR). Results: The first ambulance arrived on-scene seven minutes after the first call. Emergency medical services personnel provided supplemental oxygen to the vic-tims at the scene and en route when required. Forty casualties were evacuated to four nearby hospitals. Emergency medical services classified 26 patients as mild-ly injured, 13 as mild-moderate, and one as moderate, suffering from pulmonary edema. Most children received bronchodilators and steroids in the emergency room; 20 were hospitalized. All were treated in pediatric emergency rooms. None of the hospitals deployed their decontamination sites. Conclusions: Event management differed from the standard Israeli toxico-logical doctrine. It involved EMS triage of casualties to a number of medical centers, treatment in pediatric emergency departments, lack of use of protective gear, and omission of decontamination prior to emergency department entrance. Guidelines for mass toxicological events must be tailored to unique scenarios, such as chlorine intoxications at swimming pools, and for specific patient populations, such as children. All adult emergency departments always should be prepared and equipped for taking care of pediatric patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-95
Number of pages6
JournalPrehospital and Disaster Medicine
Volume23
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • chlorine intoxication
  • mass toxicological event
  • mass-casualty incident
  • pediatrics
  • swimming pool

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