Illnesses Are Spreading in East Palestine

Illnesses Are Spreading in East Palestine

( – Over two months after the East Palestine rail disaster, residents believe the chemicals released in the crash are harming their health. Despite EPA assurances that there’s no hazard, people are complaining about a range of symptoms. Increasingly, they’re worried that government inspectors aren’t testing for the right toxins.

On February 3, a Norfolk Southern train derailed just outside East Palestine, Ohio. Shortly after the accident, five tank cars full of vinyl chloride that were damaged began spilling their contents onto the ground. Shortly thereafter, any remaining contents were drained into a ditch and burned.

State and company officials say this was done to avoid the risk of a major explosion, but the fire created a huge mushroom cloud of black smoke — which residents fear has contaminated the area with toxic chemicals. The EPA insists the air and water around the crash site are both safe, but since evacuated residents were allowed to return home, many have been complaining about unexplained illnesses. The most common symptoms are shortness of breath, sore throats and vision problems. Others say their pets have died, while thousands of fish have perished in local rivers.

Now, residents say they’re testing positive for chemicals that can cause cancer — including the vinyl chloride that was supposed to have been burned in the fire. The chemical, which is used to make plastic, has been linked to liver, brain and lung tumors. It’s now showing up in the urine of East Palestine residents. One woman, who lives almost three miles from the crash site, says she tested positive for vinyl chloride on March 22, more than six weeks after the accident.

Norfolk Southern continues to clean up around the crash site, removing tons of contaminated soil — although residents say they were told soil samples show no hazard. They also say they can still smell chemical odors that weren’t there before the accident, and they’re showing visiting journalists streams that bubble up oily slicks when disturbed. Local people no longer trust the “experts” to test for the right toxins anymore, and they don’t believe the area is safe.

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