Emergency planning and preparedness for the deliberate release of toxic industrial chemicals

David Russell*, John Simpson

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)


    Introduction. Society in developed and developing countries is hugely dependent upon chemicals for health, wealth, and economic prosperity, with the chemical industry contributing significantly to the global economy. Toxic industrial chemicals. Many chemicals are synthesized, stored, and transported in vast quantities and classified as high production volume chemicals; some are recognized as being toxic industrial chemicals (TICs). Chemical accidents involving chemical installations and transportation are well recognized. Such chemical accidents occur with relative frequency and may result in large numbers of casualties with acute and chronic health effects as well as fatalities. Deliberate release. The large-scale production of TICs, the potential for widespread exposure and significant public health impact, together with their relative ease of acquisition, makes deliberate release an area of potential concern. Risk prioritization. The large numbers of chemicals, together with the large number of potential release scenarios means that the number of possible forms of chemical incident are almost infinite. Therefore, prior to undertaking emergency planning and preparedness, it is necessary to prioritize risk and subsequently mitigate. Risk mitigation. This is a multi-faceted process, including implementation of industrial protection layers, substitution of hazardous chemicals, and relocation away from communities. Residual risk provides the basis for subsequent planning. Emergency planning and preparedness. Risk-prioritized emergency planning is a tool for identifying gaps, enhancing communication and collaboration, and for policy development. It also serves to enhance preparedness, a necessary prelude to preventing or mitigating the public health risk to deliberate release. Planning is an iterative and on-going process that requires multi-disciplinary agency input, culminating in the formation of a chemical incident plan complimentary to major incident planning. Preparedness is closely related and reflects a state of readiness. It is comprised of several components, including training and exercising. Toxicologists have a role to play in developing syndromic surveillance, recognizing clinical presentation of chemical incidents, developing toxicological datasheets, and the requisition and stockpiling of medical countermeasures. Conclusions. The chemical industry is global and many chemicals are synthesized and transported in vast quantities. Many of these chemicals are toxic and readily available, necessitating the need for identifying and assessing hazard and risks and subsequently planning and preparing for the deliberate release of TICs.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)171-176
    Number of pages6
    JournalClinical Toxicology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010


    • Chemical incidents
    • Deliberate release
    • Emergency planning
    • High production volume chemicals
    • Preparedness
    • Risk mitigation
    • Risk prioritization
    • Toxic industrial chemicals


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