Toxic Chlorine Gas Used in Attack in Iraq is the Same Substance Norfolk Southern Spilled in Graniteville, South Carolina. | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

When doctors treated the injured after Norfolk Southern had a chemical spill after a train derailment in South Carolina, they did not have much experience seeing chlorine injuries because it does not happen that often. In fact, the main example of chlorine injuries to humans has come during war time. Bombs containing chlorine gas are now being used in the Iraqi war and killed dozens of people earlier this year in a few separate attacks.

Chlorine exposure in low amounts irritates the respiratory system, the eyes, and the skin. Higher levels of exposure to chlorine can lead to an accumulation of fluid in the lungs. Death is also possible with heavy exposure. After the bombing using chemical weapons in Iraq, many people were left with breathing difficulties and some required hospitalization in addition to those who were killed. Adding of chemical weapons into the toxic mix in Iraq is horrific.

Equally horrific is the death and injuries caused by Norfolk Southern when they spilled the same deadly gas in a small town in America. The people who were hurt in the train wreck by chlorine had no idea what they had been exposed to at first. Their doctors also had no experience with chlorine gas injuries they were looking at. In part as a result of this lack of familiarity, many of the doctors around Graniteville, South Carolina, were not prepared to deal with this catastrophe. So many of the people hurt by this chemical spill accident did not get proper treatment as quickly as they might have. People were turned away from hospitals and medical clinics because they were overwhelmed. Ironically, Norfolk Southern in dealing with these people they hurt do not want to pay much money if you only have breathing difficulties, but were not hospitalized immediately. The class action settlement that the railroad has set up for the victims of the Graniteville chemical spill have categories where they treat some people better than others. However, a number of our clients may not have been hospitalized immediately because of things having nothing to do with how badly hurt they were. For example, some people may not have had insurance or were turned away from hospitals for some other reason having nothing to do with their injuries from the chlorine. Nevertheless, the railroad in its claims process treats these people as being less worthy and their injuries as less serious just because they did not receive immediate hospitalization or treatment by a medical system in a small town which was overwhelmed with an unfamiliar mass injury.

When I read in the paper that toxic chlorine gas is used by terrorists in Iraq, it makes me realize just how terrible it must be for the families who had loved ones killed and injured in this Norfolk Southern disaster. Essentially, it was like a war zone on American soil. Unfortunately, this war zone was caused by mistakes made by an American corporation that could have and should have been prevented.