<p>International program focuses on medical management of hazardous materials incidents.</p>


Jan. 15, 2002
Contact: Jean Spinelli or George Humphrey, (520) 626-7301


International program focuses on medical management of hazardous materials incidents
THURSDAY, JAN. 17, 8:15 A.M. - 4 P.M.
FRIDAY, JAN. 18, 8:15 A.M. - 2:30 P.M.

PLACE: University Medical Center, DuVal Auditorium
1501 N. Campbell Ave., Tucson

MEDICAL WRITERS/ASSIGNMENT EDITORS NOTE: Media are welcome to attend and cover this event, which is for health care professionals only, not the general public. A copy of the course program is available from AHSC Public Affairs, (520) 626-7301. Drs. Walter and Meislin; Tareg Bey, MD; Coy Collins, Avra Valley Fire Department paramedic; and other instructors will be available for interviews; to make arrangements, please contact Jean Spinelli or George Humphrey, AHSC Office of Public Affairs, (520) 626-7301.

Before Sept. 11, few would have thought that innocuous crop-dusting planes might be used for chemical or biological assaults on U.S. citizens, potentially dwarfing the death toll from the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. Whether from intentional acts of terrorism, inadvertent hazardous materials (hazmat) transportation or industrial incidents, natural disasters causing toxic releases, or an individual exposure to a toxic substance, the threat of hazmat exposures is at an all-time high.
"Hazmat exposures pose a threat to communities and individuals in the U.S. and internationally," says Frank Walter, MD, director of the Advanced Hazmat Life Support(c) (AHLS) Course, which will be held Wednesday, Jan. 16, through Friday, Jan. 18, at University Medical Center, DuVal Auditorium, 1501 N. Campbell Ave., Tucson. "The Advanced Hazmat Life Support course is the only international one if its kind where attendees learn medical management of hazmat incidents, including exposure to nuclear, biological and chemical weapons as well as everyday hazardous materials."

Offered by the Arizona Emergency Medicine Research Center (AEMRC), a Center of Excellence at the UA College of Medicine, in collaboration with the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology, the course focuses on educating emergency responders in the proper assessment and treatment of hazmat victims.

The program covers important hazmat properties; decontamination; rapid assessment and treatment of hazmat-exposed patients; antidotes and drug therapy; and establishment of hazmat response systems in the community. Emergency physicians who are board-certified or board-prepared in medical toxicology and emergency medicine provide instruction. (The program also trains medical personnel to become AHLS instructors in order to bring the course to their region.)

Health professionals and industrial personnel -- including paramedics, nurses, physicians, pharmacists, toxicologists, industrial hygienists, waste management and risk management personnel -- from all over the world will attend the course.

"AHLS has trained hazmat experts from throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Switzerland, Italy, Saudi Arabia and Australia," says Dr. Walter, who is chief of the Section of Medical Toxicology, director of the Medical Toxicology Fellowship, and associate clinical professor, Section of Emergency Medicine, in the Department of Surgery at the UA College of Medicine.

"The course's success on the state and then the national level became the catalyst for its development into an international program," says Harvey Meislin, MD, AEMRC director and acting head of the new Department of Emergency Medicine at the UA College of Medicine. AEMRC has conducted the three-day program in Australia as well as in more than eight states since 1999, educating nearly 600 emergency responders.

AEMRC has conducted the three-day program twice a year since 1994 when it was developed by Drs. Walter and Meislin and Tucson Fire Department Captain Raymond Klein, who saw a need for a program addressing medical management of patients exposed to hazardous materials in addition to decontamination of patients.

U.S. Department of Transportation data shows that every state is affected by hazmat incidents. Some of these incidents resulted in deaths and major injuries. It has been estimated by USDOT that in 1998, damage from hazmat incidents cost in excess of $45 million.

A hazardous material is defined as any substance -- solid, liquid or gas -- capable of harming people, property or the environment. Five hundred years ago, Paracelsus, the father of modern toxicology and pharmacology, established a fundamental principle of toxicology when he said that all substances are poisons, only the dose differentiates a poison from a remedy.

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NOTE: More information about the Advanced Hazmat Life Support(c) Course is available at http://www.ahls.org, or call Danielle Crounse, program coordinator, (520)626-2305.

The AHLS course also will be offered March 20-22, 2002 at University Medical Center in Tucson.