Residents in East Palestine, Ohio, remain worried after a 50-car freight train, owned by Norfolk Southern, slid off the train tracks and caught fire in their town on Feb 3. Ten of those train cars were carrying hazardous materials.
Five of the ten train cars contained vinyl chloride, a known human carcinogen which helps make polyvinyl chloride, a resin used in various plastic products. It’s a colorless flammable gas that can quickly evaporate. It can also easily move through soil and groundwater.
Thousands of people evacuated as officials initiated a controlled burn and evaluated the risk of exposure to toxic chemicals. While the explosion harmed no one and residents returned home, many fear what long-term effects the chemical exposure from the derailment could have on their health and well-being.
Vinyl chloride can lead to health risks
The National Cancer Institute says that exposure to vinyl chloride can increase people’s risk of developing liver cancer, brain cancer and blood cancer. People can risk exposure by breathing it in or using water contaminated by it. This has been a significant concern for East Palestine residents and surrounding communities.
Regulators say that air and water quality are safe from what they have seen so far. However, some residents say they have felt sick or developed headaches since the derailment occurred.
Residents seek health coverage through federal lawsuit
Those who live near the train wreck site are filing a federal lawsuit against Norfolk Southern to pay for medical screenings and health care for anyone within a 30-mile radius of the derailment. They hope to figure out who suffered exposure to toxic chemicals after the wreck.
This has been an unfortunate situation for the people of East Palestine, the surrounding communities and Norfolk Southern employees who were on the train when it went off the tracks. Many now worry that their health and lives are at risk due to something out of their control. While it may be too early to know how the chemical exposure from the derailment will affect people, there are resources that can help them seek accountability and compensation if they fall ill.