In East Palestine, Ohio, on February 3, a Norfolk Southern freight train carrying a number of potentially hazardous chemicals derailed. The incident has resulted. residents to worry about the quality of the water and air. despite the fact that authorities assert that both are now secure.
A list of the cargo carried by the train was made public by the US Environmental Protection Agency, which is taking part in the response. While some cars contained less dangerous items like frozen vegetables, semolina, and malt liquors, about 11 of them contained chemicals that could be toxic. During the accident, a few of those containers leaked or caught fire.
Concern has been raised about some of the onboard chemicals. Benzene, ethyl hexyl acrylate, vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, and ethylene glycol monobutyl ether.
chlorinated vinyl. and . acrylate of butyl. according to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, were the main two chemicals released in the incident. Keeve Nachman, a professor of environmental health and engineering at Johns Hopkins University, told the BBC that there is no doubt that the mixture contains chemicals that have been linked to harmful health effects, including cancer. Information about how people are exposed to these chemicals through the soil, drinking water, or the air is seriously lacking. ".
He added that these substances can produce new, potentially harmful compounds when burned.
Residents of East Palestine and the surrounding areas have reported having headaches, sore throats, and watery eyes. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources reported on Tuesday that 3,500 fish in the town's nearby creeks perished as a result of the incident. In East Palestine, hundreds of incensed residents gathered on Wednesday night for a town hall to demand answers.
State and federal agencies have given the municipal air and water supplies a clean bill of health, but they have also urged residents to use well and private water, drink bottled water, and take advantage of free government testing. Mike DeWine, the governor of Ohio, also advised citizens to take precautions by drinking bottled water.
Here is what we know about the chemicals in the train, their functions, and any possible effects they might have on both people and the environment.
PVC, a type of plastic used in numerous everyday objects, is made from vinyl chloride, a colorless, odorless gas.
The time and amount of exposure matter because vinyl chloride, which is also a known carcinogen, can have harmful effects. It can result in nausea, headaches, or more severe conditions like liver cancer.
Following a dangerous temperature rise in one of the freight carriages on February 6, authorities carried out a controlled release of vinyl chloride. Governor DeWine claimed that the release was required to avert an explosion that might have sent deadly shrapnel flying through the town.
An ominous pillar of black smoke rose high above East Palestine as a result of the release of vinyl chloride. Even though authorities declared it safe for residents to return a few days later, environmental experts were less convinced.
Two toxic gases can be released when vinyl chloride burns: hydrochloric acid. and . phosgene.
Butyl acrylate smells like fruit and is a colorless liquid. It is used to create paints, resins, and polymers.
The New Jersey Department of Health warns that exposure can cause allergic reactions, nausea, vomiting, and irritation of the nose and eyes. Continual exposure can lead to lung cancer.
According to the EPA's disclosure regarding the train's cargo, the crash caused spills and fire that resulted in the loss of the entire load of butyl acrylate.
Benzene is an odorless, colorless, or pale yellow liquid that vaporizes very quickly. One of the most widely used chemicals in the US, it is found in products like plastic, resin, nylon, as well as some dyes, pesticides, and detergents.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control, benzene is a component of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke and can also be produced naturally by volcanoes or forest fires.
Drowsiness, tremors, nausea, vomiting, and sleeplessness may be experienced as a result of breathing or ingesting benzene. According to the CDC, extremely high exposure levels can result in death or unconsciousness. A year or more of prolonged exposure may have negative effects on the immune system, bone marrow, or blood.
A substance is ethyl hexyl acrylate. According to the CDC, it is an odorless, colorless liquid that can be harmful if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin or eyes.
The substance can cause irritation to the skin, eyes, and respiratory system.
Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, another substance aboard the train, is a paint and varnish additive. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states that it is very flammable. The compound's vapours can cause eye and nose irritation, as well as nausea, headaches, dizziness, and vomiting when inhaled.
Chemical exposure poses two main risks, according to Mr. Nachman. Cancer may develop as a result of low-level, prolonged chemical exposure. Shorter-term, more concentrated exposures, however, run the risk of not only causing the aforementioned symptoms in pregnant women and growing children, but also of doing so.
The information provided thus far by the government "does not paint a clear enough picture of potential exposures," according to Mr. Nachman.
The bottom line, according to Mr. Nachman, is that we need to know if there are ongoing chemical releases, what they are, how people might be exposed to them (through air, water, and in their homes), and how to stop it.