Two children and 29 of 31 crew members aboard a grain freighter became acutely ill after inhaling the toxic fumigant phosphine; one child died. Predominant symptoms were headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, cough, and shortness of breath. Abnormal physical findings included jaundice, paresthesias, ataxia, intention tremor, and diplopia. Focal myocardial infiltration with necrosis, pulmonary edema, and widespread small-vessel injury were found at postmortem examination of the dead child. The surviving child showed ECG and echocardiographic evidence of myocardial injury and transient elevation of the MB fraction of serum creatinine phosphokinase. Illness was significantly associated with living or working amidships or on the forward deck areas of the vessel. Phosphine gas was found to have escaped from the holds through a cable housing located near the midships ventilation intake and around hatch covers on the forward deck. The outbreak illustrates the hazards associated with shipboard fumigation.
(JAMA 244:148-150, 1980)
Wilson R, Lovejoy FH, Jaeger RJ, Landrigan PL. Acute Phosphine Poisoning Aboard a Grain FreighterEpidemiologic, Clinical, and Pathological Findings. JAMA. 1980;244(2):148-150. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310020024020