Health concerns for Ohio residents are growing after a train carrying toxic chemicals crashed and engulfed surrounding neighborhoods in black smoke.
East Palestine resident Melissa Henry told the Associated Press her youngest son’s ‘eyes turned red as tomato and he was coughing a lot’ before the family evacuated to her parents’ house outside the evacuation zone.
Another resident in North Lima, roughly ten miles from the train derailment, had her six chickens die days after the chemical fire started.
Taylor Holzer, a registered foxkeeper who lives outside the evacuation perimeter, told WKBN all his foxes were ill and one had died. Dead fish were also spotted in waterways around the scene after the incident.
Fifty Norfolk Southern Railroad freight train cars carrying toxic vinyl chloride derailed in Columbiana County at around 9pm on Friday, February 3.
When the evacuation was announced, the Ohio government released a version of the above map which said that anyone who remained in the red affected area was faced danger of death, and anyone who remained in the yellow impacted area was at a high risk of severe injury, including skin burns and serious lung damage
Surrounding neighborhoods were engulfed in black smoke after Norfolk Southern Railroad released the toxic chemicals into the air
A controlled release of the cancer-causing chemicals was done by the railroad company on Monday February 6 to avert a possible explosion.
Hundreds of East Palestine residents were evacuated from their homes prior to the release but have since been told it is safe for them to return.
It has emerged that three other dangerous chemicals — ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate and isobutylene — were also in the rail cars, according to a letter sent from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to Norfolk Southern.
Vinyl chloride is a highly toxic manmade gas which can increase the risk of multiple cancers.
The most likely way it will enter someone’s body is by breathing it in, but it can also be ingested via contaminated drinking water.
The chemical travels through the body in the blood and the liver will break it down into other chemicals, some of which can cause more damage than the vinyl chloride itself.
Breathing high levels of the gas can make you dizzy or give you a headache, but it can be deadly.
Sil Caggiano, a hazardous materials specialist and former fire department chief, told WKBN 27 First News: ‘We basically nuked a town with chemicals so we could get a railroad open’
He advised residents to ‘get a record now of where your health stands so that moving forward, you’ll have documentation of any possibly related effects to the train derailment’
When breathed in over many years, it can cause liver and nerve damage and leave people with a weakened immune system.
Exposure to the gas is also associated with a heightened risk of a rare form of liver cancer (hepatic angiosarcoma), as well as primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma), brain and lung cancers, lymphoma, and leukemia.
When burned, vinyl chloride creates hydrogen chloride and phosgene — a highly toxic, colorless gas with a strong odor that can cause vomiting and breathing trouble and was used as a chemical weapon in World War I.
Isobutylene is also known to cause dizziness and drowsiness when breathed in. At high levels, the substance can cause coma and death.
Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether is irritating to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract. Repeated exposure will cause the skin to dry out and crack.
Ethylhexyl acrylate is a carcinogen and contact with it can cause burning and irritation on the skin and in the eyes.
Sil Caggiano, a hazardous materials specialist and former fire department chief, told WKBN 27 First News: ‘We basically nuked a town with chemicals so we could get a railroad open.’
He told WKBN he advised residents to ‘get a health check-up’.
‘Get a record now of where your health stands so that moving forward, you’ll have documentation of any possibly related effects to the train derailment.’
Residents on TikTok said: ‘I live literally 10 minutes from this and last night the smell was so bad at home that we had to leave. I feel terrible today’.
East Palestine Police have warned that drinking water may be at risk for some residents. A task group will be knocking on doors of those they believe have at-risk water wells.
The Ohio EPA has sampled nearby rivers to determine whether there has been any water contamination and is awaiting results.