Most Emergency Workers at Paulsboro Toxic Leak Didn’t Wear Masks, CDC Says

Work crews prepared to hoist the derailed tanker cars from the Mantua Creek in Paulsboro. Credit: Ed Hille

By Andrew Kitchenman for NJ Spotlight

Only 22 percent of the emergency workers at the 2012 Paulsboro train wreck — which leaked toxic vinyl chloride into the air and water — were wearing facemasks, according to a new report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What’s more, of the 93 emergency personnel who responded to the CDC survey, 26 percent said they suffered from headaches, upper respiratory problems, coughing, neurologic symptoms and nausea.

Those findings have prompted the agency to recommend that emergency services monitor the health of first responders after train derailments. It also suggested that facemasks be used whenever the level of dangerous substances is unknown or above established safety limits.

On Nov. 30, 2012, a Conrail train jumped the tracks on a bridge crossing the Mantua Creek near the Delaware River. While much of the focus after the derailment has been on the health of local residents, the CDC report focused on emergency responders.

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