Lung function after acute chlorine exposure

Am Rev Respir Dis. 1986 Dec;134(6):1190-5. doi: 10.1164/arrd.1986.134.6.1190.


Chlorine gas, spreading from a train derailment, caused the deaths of 8 persons and the hospitalization of 23 with sublethal respiratory injuries. Twenty-five others had at least one sign of lower respiratory abnormality but were not hospitalized. One hundred thirteen who were examined for gas effects in the forty-eight hours after exposure, including 20 of 23 of those hospitalized and 21 of 25 of those not hospitalized but with respiratory abnormality, participated in follow-up studies. Probability of admission to hospital was related to distance from the spill, but by 3 wk after exposure there was no detectable difference in lung function relating to distance or apparent severity of injury. In 60 adults tested multiple times over the following 6 yr, longitudinal change in lung function showed expected differences related to smoking but none related to distance or severity of injury. The average annual change in FEV was -34 ml/yr in current smokers and -18 ml/yr in ex and never-smokers. The lack of a discernible chlorine effect in this cohort accords with the findings in most previous studies. Without pre-exposure measurements, a single, lasting reduction in lung function cannot be excluded, but there is no evidence for a persisting abnormal rate of decline.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents
  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Chlorine / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Florida
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Lung / drug effects*
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Railroads
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / chemically induced
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / physiopathology
  • Smoking
  • Spirometry
  • Time Factors


  • Chlorine