Master's Culminating Experience
Background: Hazardous materials (HAZMAT) teams are tasked with neutralizing substances that pose a dire threat to human health. As a result, communities invest substantially in medical surveillance to protect first responders. Yet, little is known as to the actual exposures, consequent injuries, and cost-effectiveness of medical surveillance.
Objective: The purposes of this study were: 1) Determine actual HAZMAT threats. 2) In light of these threats, evaluate current regulatory requirements, recommendations and practices for their basis in evidence.
Methods: National HAZMAT data was analyzed for trends and compared with local response records from 2008 through 2011. Regulations applicable to medical surveillance (federal, state and local) were reviewed and compared with local practice.
Results: An increasing trend was noted nationally in HAZMAT incidents, but not injuries. Locally, departments responded to 62 HAZMAT calls over four years. The most common call situations involved chemical hazards (32%), and petroleum spills. Roads and parking lots were the most common site (39%), with manufacturing and processing facilities next (13%). HAZMAT technicians reported no injuries.
Conclusions: While HAZMAT incidents (but not injuries) increased nationally, 62 local events resulted in no technician injuries. HAZMAT team response procedures and equipment appear to be extremely effective. Efforts to reduce injuries from such incidents should be aimed at those most immediate to the hazard – company employees and the public. The local HAZMAT responder medical surveillance program exceeded regulatory requirements, with little evidence to support significant benefits derived from extensive, routine clinical testing.
Jacobson, M. D. (2012). Evidence-Based HAZMAT Medical Surveillance. Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio.