New data indicates that the train that ran aground in Ohio contained more hazardous chemicals than was initially reported.
Vinyl chloride, a colorless, highly volatile gas produced for commercial use, spilled after about 50 cars on a Norfolk Southern Railroad train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 3 while traveling from Illinois to Pennsylvania. State health officials were initially concerned about the presence of vinyl chloride. During a controlled release and burn, other toxins like phosgene and hydrogen chloride were released in large smoke plumes, prompting authorities to issue mandatory evacuation orders for a one-mile radius around the crash site.
Several additional toxic chemicals were released into the air and soil following the crash, according to a list released by Norfolk Southern of the cars involved in the derailment and the goods they were carrying.
The list indicates that isobutylene, ethylhexyl acrylate, and ethylene glycol monobutyl ether were also present in the derailed rail cars.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, inhaling ethylhexyl acrylate can irritate the nose and throat, resulting in shortness of breath and coughing, while contact with the carcinogen can cause burning and irritation of the skin and eyes.
According to the CDC, exposure to ethylene glycol monobutyl ether can result in irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, and throat, as well as hematuria, or blood in the urine, nervous system depression, headache, and vomiting. Inhaling isobutylene can also result in dizziness and drowsiness.
However, according to Kevin Crist, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and director of Ohio University’s Air Quality Center, the only risk of coming into contact with the toxins after the controlled burn was complete was if they were embedded in the soil, which would necessitate digging them out.
After air and water samples taken in the area were found to be safe, the evacuation orders for East Palestine residents were lifted on Wednesday.
Following the completion of the controlled burn, the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States stated on Monday evening that it had not yet found any alarming levels of toxins in the air that could be attributed to the crash. The EPA says that there are six employees and 16 contractors on the ground to help with air monitoring.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated, “Residents may still smell odors from the site,” recommending that people who are experiencing any symptoms contact their physician.
The EPA also checked 291 homes near the crash site and found no levels of hydrogen chloride or vinyl chloride, according to the agency. 181 homes still needed to be screened as of Monday.
The agency reports that screenings were conducted on Sunday at the library and local schools.
According to The Associated Press, a lawsuit that was filed on February 9 by two East Palestine residents called for the rail operator to pay for medical screenings and related care for everyone who lives within 30 miles of the incident site, in addition to unspecified damages.
During a news conference on February 8, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice told reporters that some of the toxins that were released into the Ohio River near the northern panhandle of the state caused officials to shut down water production in the area and switch to a different source of water supply.
Despite Justice’s emphasis that “everything is fine here” because of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection and the National Guard’s immediate actions, the Associated Press reports that water utility company West Virginia American Water is continuing to improve its water treatment process as a precaution.
The Associated Press reported that the water company constructed a secondary intake on the Guyandotte River in case they needed to switch to another water source.
East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway announced in a Sunday press release that a town hall will be held on Wednesday at 7 p.m. to allow residents to ask questions about the effects of the derailment.