The Effects of Indoor Air Screening on Environmental Hazards Caused by a Trapped Hamat Spill or Release: East Palestine
According to data reviewed by NPR, the Railroad Administration has investigated over a hundred train wrecks which resulted in a hazmat spill or release. No deaths were recorded in any of these derailments.
Residents of East Palestine were asked to leave out of a fear. On Monday, Feb. 6, crews conducted what officials called a “controlled release” of the hazardous chemicals which caused a large plume of black smoke.
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.
Some business owners as well as East Palestine residents have filed lawsuits against Norfolk Southern, accusing the company of being negligent and demanding court-supervised medical screenings for serious illnesses that are caused by exposure to those chemicals.
The EPA said it had not detected any levels of concern in East Palestine as of Sunday.
The agency added that vinyl chloride and hydrogen chloride have not been detected in the 291 homes that have been screened as of Monday. 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 a long time can experience health issues.
When vinyl chloride is exposed in the environment, it breaks down from sunlight within a few days and changes into other chemicals 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 monitors 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.
The Environmental Impact of Railroad Spikes on East Palestine’s Air Quality: Dr. Dannemiller, a Worker’s Advocate, and a Public Health Advocate
Karen Dannemiller, professor at The Ohio State University who studies indoor air quality, said that people will be very concerned about the long-term exposure that comes at lower levels.
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 advises vacuuming in quick spurts to try to keep dirt out of the air.
Many residents reported headaches and rashes in the aftermath of the incident, and have grown impatient with the response from Norfolk Southern and public officials.
The air is safe and the EPA is keeping an eye on it. The EPA says that the levels of the chemical aren’t high enough to impact the community’s health.
What happened in East Palestine is a cruel reminder of what can happen for millions of people who live near railways throughout the U.S., said Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist in the health and environment program of the the Natural Resources Defense Council, environmental nonprofit.
Railroad lines in the country are carrying hazardous materials and materials that may become airborne if they are released,” he said.
Dr. Mary Prunicki said people can protect themselves and their families from pollution after a chemical spill by doing things on their own.
The risk, unfortunately, is not just with railways. There are chemicals also being transported by tanker trucks and by air, Nellie Brown, the director of workplace health and safety programs for the Worker Institute at Cornell University, notes.
How should communities be informed about public safety issues during chemical and nuclear emergencies? A spokesperson from the National Transportation Safety Board of Ohio said it wasn’t an accident that it didn’t investigate
The National Transportation Safety board doesn’t look into every train accident because they are investigating the Ohio incident. That means the NTSB doesn’t keep a definitive listing of events it didn’t investigate, an agency spokesperson told NPR.
“It’s not like, [accidents are] impossible. These things do happen. She said that when you’re looking at the things that are happening near residential areas, you need emergency response plans in place.
“These efforts — coupled with ongoing investment, technology, employee training, improved operating practices and community outreach efforts — have lowered hazmat accident rates by 55% since 2012,” the organization claims.
But if this is a concern in your community, Sass recommends proactively working with local governments to try to make sure there’s a response plan readily available. First responders, hospitals and train companies should know about this plan and there should be a way to alert the community quickly and efficiently and in multiple languages that are relevant for the population, she said.
When accidents involving hazardous chemicals happen, the community should get the most up-to-date information.
“First responders and local health departments, local environmental agencies, and physicians, health care workers — all of them need accurate, timely information” to be able to properly respond and keep each other safe, she said.
She also encourages people to check around their doors and windows to be sure they are functioning well, “so that if you are indoors you have the best environment,” she said.
For people who have chronic health issues like heart or respiratory problems, it’s good practice to have medications on hand in case a quick evacuation is necessary, she said. If an emergency occurs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages family members and pets to have a “to go” bag.
When a chemical emergency strikes, CDC says communities will most likely hear orders from emergency officials on the radio, TV, and mobile news apps, or from text alert service.
When communities are told to shelter-in-place, the CDC has a guide. The agency strongly urges keeping abreast of all updates from public safety officials during the crisis.
Shelter-in-place for nuclear or tornado emergencies is different from staying put for chemical emergencies. The CDC says you should seal off your space as much as possible.
That entails choosing a “safe room” for family members to easily block off any outside air. To seal out chemical agents, use duct tape, towels, and plastic sheets and all doors and windows.
What to Do During Chemical Spills? Jamie Cozza and her family evacuated to a hotel after she was told by the NRDC
Jamie Cozza and her family evacuated to a hotel and haven’t returned to town. She did a toxicology report at her house and it came back with bad news. She wanted more testing of her water and soil.
Sass, with the NRDC, said Cozza’s instinct is the way to go: If your home is affected by a chemical spill, demand more testing on water and soil to be safe.
In some of the affected areas of Ohio where residents rely on private wells and other private sources, authorities encouraged people to only drink bottled water.
She said the hotter the water, the more it will volatilise into the air. Even cooking with potentially contaminated water is a huge no-no as the water will eventually turn to steam and can have a toxic effect.
The outlet spoke to Candice Desanzo, who evacuated the area with her children but returned after the evacuation order was lifted. She’s regretting that decision.
Desanzo told Ideastream that they all have red rash, stool, congested eyes, and smells. “I’ve been having terrible headaches.”
The Innocuous Effect of Smells on Electroweak Processes and the Decay of Drip-Sickening Mesons
“If smells are terrible, regardless if someone’s saying it’s fine, use your own your own judgment and err on the side of caution,” she said. I’m going to get out of there if it makes me sick.