While residents in East Palestine, Ohio have been allowed to return to their homes following a train derailment earlier this month which released toxic chemicals, they have come back to find fish dead in rivers and creeks, and the smell of chemicals lingering in the air. After the spill, officials set the chemicals on fire as a means of disposing of them.
Initial reports stated that five of the derailed train cars carried vinyl chloride, a colorless gas used to make PVC plastics. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the exposure limit for workers is 1 part per million over an 8-hour shift. The National Cancer Institute states that exposure to vinyl chloride comes with an increased risk of rare liver cancer as well as brain and lung cancers, lymphoma, and leukemia.
New reports have revealed though that three additional chemicals were on the derailed Norfolk Southern train.
According to WKBN, the US Environmental Protection Agency sent a letter to Norfolk Southern stating that ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate and isobutylene were also in the derailed train cars.
Sil Caggiano, a hazardous materials specialist, told WKBN that ethylhexyl acrylate is an especially worrisome chemical, being a carcinogen and contact with the chemical can cause burning and irritation of the skin and eyes. Breathing it in can irritate the nose and throat, and cause shortness of breath and coughing.
Isobutylene is known to cause dizziness and drowsiness when inhaled.
Caggiano told WKBN that residents of East Palestine should get a health check-up as soon as possible, to get it on record where their health stands now to document future effects from the train derailment.
A controlled release of chemicals began on February 6, with authorities burning off the chemicals to reduce the risk of a vinyl chloride explosion.
Local residents are now concerned that the local water supply has become contaminated, as dead fish began to pop up in the hundreds in local streams.
One local man, Russel Murphy told KOKA that there were "hundreds" of dead fish in Leslie Run, a stream located in East Palestine. The dead fish began popping up around 48 hours after the fire was set.
According to NewsNation, environmental regulators have been monitoring the air and water in surrounding communities, and say that the air quality remains safe and drinking water hasn’t been affected.
Residents told NewsNation that in addition to the dead fish, sick animals have been spotted near their homes. One North Lima woman told WKBN that her chickens have now died and she said she smelled chlorine in the air.
In one TikTok video posted by Nick Drom, he stated that vinyl chloride is "very hazardous and very flammable," and that the chemical was shipped in its liquid form. By setting the chemical on fire, he said, it created a hydrogen chloride byproduct. This byproduct can latch onto water molecules easily, including in water molecules found in the atmosphere, creating hydrochloric acid.
Drom, who said he found studying industrial accidents "fascinating," said that "there are a couple things that are pretty universal" across all industrial accidents. The responsible party, he said, always plays "down he reality of the situation," which politicians and news outlets repeat. "So all we are hearing is the responsible party’s word."
In one TikTok video posted by a person who said they grew up near East Palestine, they said that videos sent by friends show "a really pretty chemical rainbow sheen" on top of the water where dead fish were spotted.
"The chemicals are in the f*cking water and they’re lying to the rest of the country saying they’re not. The water’s been contaminated, the soil’s been contaminated, the f*cking air is contaminated. You literally are about to see some of the worst f*cking health side effects coming out of people in that town, it’s not even funny," they claimed, adding that FEMA and the Red Cross never came to the town.
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