An Ohio resident’s guide arrives at a safe place for a control release of toxic chemicals after a train derailed near the Pennsylvania state line
EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — Evacuated residents can safely return to the Ohio village where crews burned toxic chemicals after a train derailed five days ago near the Pennsylvania state line, East Palestine Fire Chief Keith Drabick said Wednesday.
Out of precaution, residents of East Palestine were asked to leave. A large black smoke billowed from a control release of hazardous chemicals on Monday, Feb. 6, by crews.
James Justice said around-the-clock air monitoring has shown normal levels. Hundreds of data points from that “show that the air quality in the town is safe,” he said.
No injuries have been reported from the derailment or from the controlled release of the chemicals on Monday, but some people have complained about smelling chlorine and smoke in the air and having headaches.
Many nearby residents left shortly after the wreck and others were ordered out before the controlled release of the chemicals because of health concerns.
The commander of Ohio National Guard previously said that members of the guard would take readings in homes and businesses to make sure the air was safe before lifting the order.
A Class Action Case for Norfolk Southern in the East Palestine Fire, caused by a 50-Car Derailed Train and Involving Hazardous Chemicals
A fiery crash on the edge of East Palestine derailed about 50 cars, carrying hazardous materials. Federal investigators said there was a mechanical issue with the rail car.
There has been at least one lawsuit filed. An East Palestine business owner and two other residents sued the rail operator in federal court on Tuesday, alleging negligence by Norfolk Southern and exposure to toxic substances as a result. They’re seeking to make it a class-action case for residents and businesses in the evacuated area and people who were physically harmed because of spilled chemicals at the site.
The fire in Ohio was caused by 50 Norfolk Southern train cars that went off the tracks. Ten of the 50 derailed cars contained hazardous chemicals including butyl acrylate and vinyl chloride, which were among combustible liquids that authorities feared could set off a major explosion.
The evacuation order was lifted on Wednesday and since then, there have been a growing number of reports about people experiencing a burning sensation in their eyes, animals falling ill and a strong odor lingering in the town.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there has been nothing detected of concern in East Palestine as of Sunday.
The agency says that vinyl chloride and hydrogen chloride haven’t been found in many of the homes screened so far. There are 181 homes left to be evaluated in the voluntary indoor air screening program.
Breathing or drinking vinyl chloride can cause a number of health risks including dizziness and headaches. People who breathe the chemical for many years may experience damage to theirlivers.
Vinyl Chloride breaks down from sunlight within a few days, making it into otherchemicals such as formaldehyde. When it is spilled in soil or surface water, the chemical evaporates into the air quickly, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
The EPA has been monitoring for several other hazardous chemicals, including phosgene and hydrogen chloride, which are released by burning vinyl chloride. Exposure to phosgene can cause eye irritation, dry burning throat and vomiting; while hydrogen chloride can irritate the skin, nose, eyes and throat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Indoor air quality: a message to East Palestine residents to take part in the at-home air screening efforts, Dr. Karen Dannemiller
Karen Dannemiller, a professor at The Ohio State University who studies indoor air quality, said that people will be concerned about chronic exposure that comes at lower levels now that we are into a longer term phase of this.
She added that indoor spaces can be an important point of exposure, which is why she urges East Palestine residents to take part in EPA’s at-home air screening.
Dannemiller recommends residents to wipe down surfaces, especially areas that collect dust, and wash items that absorb smells, such as bed sheets and curtains. She also advises vacuuming carefully in short bursts to try to prevent contaminants from moving into the air.