Study to Look at California Chemical Accident

A new study will be looking at the health effects of an appalling <"">chemical accident that took place in Graniteville, California five years ago. The Herald Online said that University of South Carolina (USC) researchers won a $2.9 million federal grant for the research that will be headed epidemiologist Erik Svendsen.

Graniteville, located in Aiken County, is a mill town where nine people died from exposure to chlorine following a January 6, 2005 train crash in which a speeding Norfolk Southern train crashed into a parked train, said the Herald Online. The collision caused a tanker to rupture and spill tons of chlorine, added the Herald Online.

The team will try to determine if chlorine exposure resulted in premature aging of the lungs; the research is a long-term chlorine health study, said the Herald Online.

Previous research by Svendsen found that, initially, in the first year following the accident, some of those who breathed in the chlorine were experiencing lung aging at about four times the rate prior to the crash, said the Herald Online.

The first-of-its-kind study will follow up on the prior research, wrote the Sacramento Bee, and will take place over five years.

Last week, during a news conference at USC to announce various grants of university health researchers, Svendsen pointed out that study could answer some questions for those people suffering from chlorine exposure, said the Sacramento Bee. “We are very excited about this opportunity to be able to go back down to the Graniteville community and to find some answers to what they’ve been telling us, that ‘We’re still sick,'” Svendsen said, quoted the Sacramento Bee.

Svendsen also pointed out that the research will involve “long-term health evaluations,” adding that, “We do not know if they’ve gotten better or not. We want to find out. That is the purpose of the grant,” the Sacramento Bee also quoted.

Chlorine is largely used to clean water and clothing and is also used in industry; however, in high concentrations, chlorine exposure can be fatal, the Sacramento Bee explained.

Although nine people died, hundreds more required medical attention, not to mention that the chlorine bleached trees and grass and also corroded equipment at Avondale Mills, a textile mill in the area, which shut down since the accident, said the Sacramento Bee.

Svendsen, with USC’s department of epidemiology and biostatistics, is also an environmental epidemiologist with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, said the Sacramento Bee. Svendsen will be working with other Carolina researchers and other universities, including researchers from the Medical College of Georgia, the Medical University of South Carolina, and the University of Georgia.

The research will look at a variety of people, including 600 former mill employees.

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