OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to analyze the relationship between clinical status and work characteristics of firefighters and other public officers who engaged on collection duties in the site of the hydrogen fluoride spill that occurred on September 27, 2012, in Gumi City, South Korea.
METHODS: We investigated the clinical status, personal history, and work characteristics of the study subjects and performed physical examination and several clinical examinations, including chest radiography, echocardiography, pulmonary function test, and blood testing in 348 firefighters, police officers, volunteer firefighters, and special warfare reserved force who worked at the hydrogen fluoride spill area.
RESULTS: The subjects who worked near the accident site more frequently experienced eye symptoms (p = 0.026), cough (p = 0.017), and headache (p = 0.003) than the subjects who worked farther from the accident site. The longer the working hours at the accident area, the more frequently the subjects experienced pulmonary (p = 0.027), sputum (p = 0.043), and vomiting symptoms (p = 0.003). The subjects who did not wear respiratory protective devices more frequently experienced dyspnea than those who wore respiratory protective devices (p = 0.013). In the pulmonary function test, the subjects who worked near the accident site had a higher decease in forced vital capacity than the subjects who worked farther from the site (p = 0.019); however, no statistical association was found between serum calcium/phosphate level, echocardiography result, chest radiographic result, and probation work characteristics.
CONCLUSIONS: The subjects who worked near the site of the hydrogen fluoride spill, worked for an extended period, or worked without wearing respiratory protective devices more frequently experienced upper/lower respiratory, gastrointestinal, and neurological symptoms. Further follow-up examination is needed for the workers who were exposed to hydrogen fluoride during their collection duties in the chemical plant in Gumi City.