Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Impact of a Large Fire and Subsequent Pollution Control Failure at a Coke Works on Acute Asthma Exacerbations in Nearby Adult Residents

Version 1 : Received: 25 June 2021 / Approved: 28 June 2021 / Online: 28 June 2021 (16:33:30 CEST)

How to cite: Morphew, T.; Venkat, A.; Graham, J.; Mehalik, M.; Anderson, N.; Gentile, D. Impact of a Large Fire and Subsequent Pollution Control Failure at a Coke Works on Acute Asthma Exacerbations in Nearby Adult Residents. Preprints 2021, 2021060686 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202106.0686.v1). Morphew, T.; Venkat, A.; Graham, J.; Mehalik, M.; Anderson, N.; Gentile, D. Impact of a Large Fire and Subsequent Pollution Control Failure at a Coke Works on Acute Asthma Exacerbations in Nearby Adult Residents. Preprints 2021, 2021060686 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202106.0686.v1).

Abstract

Clairton, Pennsylvania, is home to the largest coke works facility in the United States (US). On 24 December 2018, a large fire occurred at this facility and damaged pollution control equipment. Although repairs were not completed for several months, production continued at pre-fire capacity and daily emissions increased by 24 to 35 times, with multiple exceedances of monitored levels of outdoor air pollution (OAP). The aim of this study was to objectively evaluate the impact of this industrial incident and resultant OAP exceedances on asthma morbidity. We assessed pre-fire and post-fire rate ratios (RR) of outpatient and emergency department (ED) visits for asthma exacerbations among nearby adult residents. Pre-fire versus post-fire RRs increased for both visit types: RR = 1.82 (95% CI: 1.30, 2.53; p < 0.001) and 1.84 (95% CI: 1.05, 3.22; p = 0.032) for outpatient and ED visits, respectively. Additionally, total visit rates increased on days with OAP exceedances: RR = 2.47 (95% CI: 1.52, 4.01; p < 0.0001), 1.58 (95% CI: 1.00, 2.48; p = 0.048) and 1.79 (95% CI: 1.27, 2.54; p = 0.001) for PM2.5, SO2, and H2S exceedance days, respectively. These results show a near doubling of acute visits for asthma exacerbations in nearby adult residents during this industrial incident and underscore the need for prompt remediation and public notification of OAP exceedances to prevent adverse health impacts.

Keywords

asthma; outdoor air pollution; particulate matter; sulfur dioxide; hydrogen sulfide

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