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Technological Hazard – HAZMAT, Phosphine Gas Leak: Dominican Republic


Published Date: 2017-07-30 10:46:35
Subject: PRO/EDR> Phosphine gas poisoning – Dominican Republic: factory workers
Archive Number: 20170730.5214823

Administrative Map of Dominican Republic

Administrative Map of Dominican Republic – Nations Online

Date: 25 Jul 2017
Source: Yahoo Notices [edited]

Dozens of workers were poisoned today [25 Jul 2017] in a factory for the manufacture of tobacco in the Dominican city of Moca (north) due to the effects of a chemical used to fumigate, according to the Ministry of Public Health.

The agency noted that the intoxicated suffered from suffocation, dizziness and nausea caused by the effects of aluminum phosphide that was spread in the factory.

Public Health also reported that the Fire Department was mobilized to the site and the National Health Service and the National Police, which, along with neighbors, transferred the affected to various care centers in the area.

Doctors at the Toribio Bencosme hospital in Moca said that some of the patients told them that they began to feel ill when other workers at the company Inetab-Kaubeck fumigated with a substance used to dry tobacco leaves.

Electronic media in the city of Moca claimed that more than 80 women were affected and that factory executives refused to provide information.

At least 6 of the women were admitted to the hospital in critical condition, and almost all of them will remain under observation for at least the next 24 hours.

Communicated by:

[“Aluminum phosphide (AlP — Al is for aluminum and P is for phosphide) is a highly toxic, low cost, effective, and commonly used pesticide, a fumigant for control of insects and rodents. It is primarily used for indoor fumigation of raw agricultural commodities, animal feeds, processed food commodities, and non-food commodities in sealed containers or structures, and for outdoor fumigation of burrows to control rodents and moles in non-domestic areas, non-cropland, and agricultural areas.

Aluminum and magnesium phosphide are formulated as tablets, pellets, impregnated materials and dusts. Aluminum and magnesium phosphide are restricted use chemicals. The use by certified pesticide applicators (at least in the USA) with respect to rodent control for burrows at least 15 feet (4.6 m) from a residential structure is considered a residential use.

Aluminum and magnesium phosphide react with moisture in the atmosphere to produce phosphine gas, which is the substance that is active as a pesticide. It liberates lethal phosphine gas when it comes in contact either with atmospheric moisture or with hydrochloric acid in the stomach. The release of phosphine gas from AlP is immediate when mixed with aqueous solutions, such as water, and leads to rapid absorption through the lungs and gut when swallowed. Its gaseous form and toxicity makes it a potential agent for chemical terrorism.

Unfortunately, AlP is now one of the most common causes of pesticide poisoning among agricultural workers.

The mechanism of toxicity includes cellular hypoxia due to the effect on mitochondria, inhibition of cytochrome C oxidase, and formation of highly reactive hydroxyl radicals. The signs and symptoms are nonspecific and instantaneous.

The toxicity of AlP particularly affects the cardiac and vascular tissues, which manifest as profound and refractory hypotension, congestive heart failure, and electrocardiographic abnormalities. The diagnosis of AlP usually depends on clinical suspicion or history, but can be made easily by the simple silver nitrate test on gastric content or on breath. Due to no known specific antidote, management remains primarily supportive care.

Aluminum and magnesium phosphide are in Toxicity Category I, the highest (most toxic) of 4 categories, for acute effects via the inhalation route. No significant exposure to phosphine gas is expected via dermal routes, although rarely dermal absorption has been the route of lethal exposures. The Environmental Protection Agency does not believe that aluminum and magnesium phosphide pose a carcinogenic concern.

Histopathological findings of vital organs were found to be suggestive of cellular hypoxia. Myocardial muscles in non-survivors showed myocyte vacuolation, areas of myocytolysis and degeneration. Histological changes on human brain showed disorganisation of the different layers, paucity of glial cells, degeneration of neurons, and appearance of necrotic patches. In other organs like in lung, diffuse vessel injury with edema and atelectasis; in liver, centrilobular necrosis; and in kidney, tubular degeneration findings may be present.

The permissible exposure limit of phosphine is less than 0.3 ppm in the working environment and levels greater than 50 ppm are dangerous to life, while at 400-600 ppm it is lethal within half an hour. Individuals working in the manufacturing facility of AlP or methamphetamine (phosphine is a by-product), engaged in placing AlP tablets on the stacks of grains, and in the vicinity of application are at risk for unintentional exposure of phosphine gas, with few reported fatalities.

Cases have existed in animals fed grain that was exposed to phosphine tablets but not allowed to sit for long enough prior to being fed to the animals. Animals have died in all of these cases.”

This is a sad situation, but it may indicate that the plant needs more attention to safety. We sincerely hope the workers recover.

Parts of this comment were extracted from and – Mod.TG

A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:]

See Also

Phosphine gas poisoning – Spain: (Burgos) fatalities 20170520.5050978
Phosphine gas poisoning – USA: (TX) fatal 20170105.4742742

Poisoning, agent unknown – Ukraine (02): (Yalta) phosphine 20080323.1102

Phosphine, fatal – Ukraine (Yalta) 20070114.0189

A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the International Society for Infectious Diseases


PHOSPHINE : Lung Damaging Agent

Phosphine – NIH Publication

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