Ohio to Set up Health Clinic at Train Derailment Site

February 20, 2023

The state of Ohio plans to set up a health clinic in East Palestine on Tuesday for residents suffering symptoms following the February 3 train derailment that sparked a fire and a miles-wide toxic chemical spill.  

Since the train’s derailment, residents in the town of less than 5,000 have been complaining of ailments such as rashes, nausea and headaches.

Hundreds of townspeople were evacuated after the train derailed two weeks ago and the train’s operator was forced to vent and burn carcinogenic chemicals from crashed rail cars to prevent an explosion.

The burning chemical was identified as vinyl chloride. The flammable gas is used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes, vehicle interior features such as upholstery, and plastic kitchenware.

The EPA has stated that “inhaled vinyl chloride has been shown to increase the risk of a rare form of liver cancer in humans,” and there are other potential effects from exposure to it.

While it was deemed safe for evacuated residents to return home on February 8, residents have questioned the validity of the air as well as water tests.

Butyl acrylate was detected in the Ohio River following the train crash, but on Friday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said the level of chemicals in the river was no longer detectable.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry issued a health guidance bulletin stating that the butyl acrylate can start having negative health effects at 560 parts per billion. On Thursday, the Ohio EPA reported that the highest levels detected were three parts per billion.

On Sunday, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said residents were “right to be skeptical” about East Palestine’s water and air quality.

“We think the water’s safe,” the Senator added. “But when you return to your home, you should be tested again for your water and your soil and your air, not to mention those that have their own wells.”

Brown is among a bipartisan group of Senators calling for a Congressional investigation into the train’s derailment.

When the Ohio Department of Health’s clinic opens on Tuesday it will have registered nurses, mental health specialists and, at times, a toxicologist standing by to aid those suffering weeks after the train derailment.

Meanwhile, work to clear the train crash site is ongoing.

The train’s operator, Norfolk Southern, is “scrapping and removing rail cars at the derailment location, excavating contaminated areas, removing contaminated liquids from affected storm drains, and staging recovered waste for transportation to an approved disposal facility,” the EPA said Sunday.

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