Prevent Blindness America, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) have joined forces to develop a brochure titled "Emergency Response and Disaster Recovery - Eye Safety." The brochures will be distributed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to rescue workers in New York City and Arlington, Va.
Prevent Blindness America, noting the tremendous number of eye injuries reported by rescue workers, says the brochure provides in-depth information about common hazards, all types of eye injuries, prevention measures and protective eye gear.
A number of rescuers reported eye injuries from the smoke, dust and soot. In the first hours and days after the crashes at the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, nurses hung saline solution from broomsticks, using it to rinse workers'' eyes, while other rescuers ran into buildings or to first aid stations to douse their eyes with water.
Even now, more than two weeks after the disasters, workers continue to face serious hazards. ISEA and its member companies donated thousands of respirators, masks and protective eye wear to rescue workers at the cleanup sites.
Jonathan Stein, M.D., was one of 13 ophthalmology residents and five ophthalmology attending physicians from a level 1 trauma center at a New York-area university medical center who were placed on active duty in the emergency room on Sept. 11. Although ready to help in any way possible, they found that their specialty of treating eye injuries and trauma was particularly in demand.
Writing about his experiences for Medscape Ophthalmology, said the most commonly encountered problems included chemical conjunctivitis, superficial punctate keratopathy, corneal abrasions, and corneal foreign bodies. Patients entering the emergency room were initially treated by the emergency room staff. If they had eye injuries, then they were immediately sent to the urgent care unit. Their eyes were irrigated with a liter of saline solution and then they were evaluated and treated by one of the ophthalmologists.
"It is unfortunate that the emergency room in general was eerily quiet after this major tragedy in the New York City area," writes Stein. "Hundreds of physicians, nurses and emergency medical technicians were on site to help in any way possible... I just wish that we were all able to do more."
Prevent Blindness America says it commends its many vision partners and ISEA and its member companies "for responding with such generosity in donating prescription and nonprescription eye drops, protective eyewear, topical anesthetics, respirators, masks, skin graft-related products and millions of dollars in monetary contributions."
Prevent Blindness America, founded in 1908, is a volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to preventing blindness through public and professional education, community and patient service programs and research.
by Sandy Smith