Exposures and reported symptoms associated with occupational deployment to the Buncefield fuel depot fire, England 2005

Oliver Morgan*, Neville Verlander, F. Kennedy, M. Moore, S. Birch, J. Kearney, P. Lewthwaite, R. Lewis, S. O'Brian, J. Osman, M. Reacher

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)


    Objectives: An explosion at the Buncefield fuel depot outside London occurred on 11 December 2005. We conducted a retrospective cohort study of airborne exposures and health status for workers deployed. Methods: Deployed individuals were identified through their occupational health departments. We sent a self-completion questionnaire asking about health symptoms during the burn and post-burn phases. The prevalence of health symptoms in workers was compared to symptoms in local residents not under the smoke plume. Results: Of 1949 eligible individuals, 815 returned questionnaires (response rate 44%). Respiratory protection was used by 39%. Symptoms were reported by 41% of individuals during the burn phase compared with 26% in the post-burn phase. In a final multivariable model, reporting of any symptoms was associated with deployment inside the inner fire cordon during the burn phase (OR 2.07, 95% CI 1.24 to 3.47) and wearing a face mask (OR 2.33, 95% CI 1.67 to 3.26). Compared with the general public, eye irritation (prevalence ratio (PR) 2.1, 95% CI 1.5 to 3.0), coughing (PR 1.3, 95% CI 1.0 to 1.8) and headaches (PR 1.7, 95% CI 1.2 to 2.5) were more common in workers deployed during the burn phase but not the post-burn phase. Conclusions: Increased reporting of symptoms close to the fire during the burn phase was consistent with increased exposure to products of combustion, although no major acute illness was reported. That only a minority of individuals used face masks, which were not protective for symptoms, raises questions about the availability of adequate respiratory protection for such incidents.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)404-411
    Number of pages8
    JournalOccupational and Environmental Medicine
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008


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