Ohio Toxic Train Disaster

A major train derailment in Ohio occurred on February 3, 2023, at 8:55 p.m. EST, when a Norfolk Southern freight train carrying hazardous materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, United States. 

Up to 2,000 residents within a one-mile radius area of the crash were evacuated due to the fact that dangerous chemicals carried by the train, run by Norfolk Southern Corporation, were being released in order to prevent an explosion. These residents were soon given the OK to return home, as officials deemed water and air samples safe enough.

Meanwhile, the EPA has been actively monitoring environmental conditions in East Palestine and surrounding towns. Vinyl Chloride was one of the 5 chemicals identified by the EPA to have been carried by trains during the crash, which when exposed to can either cause dizziness and/or drowsiness. High exposure can lead to hospitalization and death. It has also been linked to types of cancer such as leukemia and lung cancer, as well as a rare form of liver cancer.

Despite reassurances from officials that the area’s air and water quality is safe, residents in the vicinity of the derailment have reported multiple health symptoms, including nausea and a burning sensation in their eyes. 

As previously mentioned, some of the chemicals being carried by the train were released in order to prevent explosion. These chemicals can be destroyed when heated to extremely high temperatures. The black smoke plume that could be seen on TV and in reports of the crash is an indicator that the burn of these chemicals was incomplete, which, in turn, means there could be hazardous chemicals in the air.

Out of the 400 or so homes tested for air quality, no evidence of high levels of vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride has been found. However, full transparency has been lacking. Just because an agency is doing testing doesn’t mean it is testing for what it needs to test for. There are also things other than simply chemicals that have burned due to the crash, which poses an additional risk.