(RightWing.org) – On February 3, a Norfolk Southern train hauling 151 rail cars derailed in the small town of East Palestine, Ohio. Eleven of the cars contained hazardous chemicals that spewed into the air and ground. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has done some testing of the air, soil, and water in the area and claims they are safe, but there are other experts who disagree and believe the government is not testing for some serious cancer-causing byproducts, especially dioxins (highly toxic compounds).
After the train jumped the tracks, fire erupted, which caused a pressure buildup in one of the tanker cars that was carrying vinyl chloride. This could have caused a massive and dangerous explosion with shrapnel traveling for over a mile. Rather than allowing that, officials at the scene chose the lesser of what was described as “two bad options” and decided to do a controlled release and burn on the five cars that contained the substance. Other cars containing hazardous materials such as benzene and ethylene glycol mono butyl ether were part of the massive pile-up.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vinyl chloride is a toxic gas that is both extremely flammable and explosive and can pose serious health risks. Acute exposure can have severe consequences, up to and including coma and death; chronic exposure can lead to permanent liver damage/cancer, along with “neurologic or behavioral symptoms.”
The EPA has repeatedly told residents that its testing has shown the air quality in the area shows no signs of problems or risk to the people living there. However, a team of researchers at Texas A&M and Carnegie Mellon University (located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, roughly 50 miles from the crash site) claim that results from their mobile testing unit dispute that finding, at least in the long term.
According to a chart included in a Twitter chain from the A&M Superfund Research Center, the team has identified nine chemicals that are above “normal average levels,” which could be a concern if they maintain current saturations. The chemical acrolein was found to be far beyond normally accepted levels, and according to the CDC, acute exposure can cause:
- Chemical burns
- Pulmonary edema and respiratory insufficiency possibly lasting up to 18 months past exposure
- If ingested, burning to any part of the upper digestive tract
Update (1/3) on @CAPS_CMU and @TAMUSuperfund partnership for air quality in East Palestine, OH. EPA’s air data for BTEX are compared to measurements by @TAMUSuperfund in NC in 2018-19 – good news is that BTEX levels appear “normal” (including Benzene, a known carcinogen). pic.twitter.com/2ZlLC0rJJk
— Texas A&M Superfund Research Center (@tamusuperfund) February 24, 2023
The Human Factor
For residents of the area, this is not just an academic discussion. Stories of health problems are beginning to spread, like that of 40-year-old Wade Lovett, who told the New York Post that doctors believe he has been exposed to one or more toxins, but there is no local expert to tell him which ones are applicable in his case.
Lovett describes his symptoms as difficulty breathing, to the point he feels like he is “drowning” at night, and a change in his normally low voice to something more along the lines of Mickey Mouse or Michael Jackson. He also says he is now unemployed because his doctor would not give him medical clearance to go back to work.
Ayla and Tyler Antoniazzi spoke to CNN and described the impact they believe these chemicals in the environment are having on their daughters, ages two and four. They say they have seen some lethargy, eye pain, and skin rashes to the point they have sent them to live with the mother’s parents.
In a rare moment of solidarity, the two senators from Ohio, Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican J.D. Vance, wrote a joint letter to the federal and state EPA offices expressing concerns that neither agency nor Norfolk Southern appear to be testing for dioxins and asked if there were any future plans to do so.
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