Originally created 10/31/06

State to offer more screenings



AIKEN - More health screenings have been scheduled for the hundreds of Graniteville residents exposed to chlorine gas during last year's train derailment.

State legislators have earmarked $450,000 to check out at least 600 people who signed up for the first round of screenings last year but were left out when the money was gone.

"We will stretch it as far as we can to reach as many people as we can," said Thom Berry, spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Last year, state health officials spent $182,000 checking the health of 259 people who had signed up for the tests through a health registry list.

Mr. Berry said 935 people have put their names on that list since July 2005, leaving about 600 people to screen.

The screenings are being done by the Medical College of Georgia at the school's new health and sciences building. MCG is at 1120 15th St. in Augusta, although state officials said that transportation is being arranged through Graniteville churches.

Exact dates for the screenings have not been set, but DHEC estimates that they will begin in late November and go through March.

Nine people died from chlorine exposure after the two Norfolk Southern trains crashed early Jan. 6, 2005.

The derailment released an estimated 60 tons of chlorine gas in the small Aiken County town, and hundreds of people sought medical treatment for exposure, state health officials say.

They estimate that even more were exposed to the deadly gas by living in, working in, driving through or responding to the area affected by the chlorine spill.

According to DHEC information released Monday, the screenings last year found that one in five residents had respiratory problems and needed additional medical attention.

Another 20 percent had trouble coping with the trauma of the derailment.

Reach Sandi Martin at (803) 648-1395, ext. 111, or sandi.martin@augustachronicle.com.

Graniteville health screenings

State health officials released information about the screenings Monday:


- To be screened, you must be on the state's health registry, which can be reached by calling Aiken County's Help Line at 221.


- The approximately 600 people already on the list who were not screened last year will be first, with those who were exposed to the gas from within a half-mile of the wreck at the top of the list.


- The priority list will then expand to those who were within three-quarters of a mile when exposed, moving out until everyone has been screened.