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Toxic Wreck

Pictured - Parts of a Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, Feb. 4.Gene J. Puskar / AP file

On the evening of February 3rd a freight train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in the town of Palestine, Ohio, resulting in the horrifying scene of a charred mass of boxcars and flames. The toxins filling the air, leaking into waterways, and contaminating the environment. Residents in the area were ordered to evacuate and Norfolk Southern - the company operating the train - then conducted a controlled burn in an attempt to avoid the risk a catastrophic explosion occurring. However, this would lead to further distress for the townspeople of Palestine and beyond, as one of the chemicals being burned was vinyl chloride

Vinyl chloride is a common ingredient in a wide variety of plastic products, from PVC pipes to kitchenware, in spite of that, it is carcinogenic. (Spalding, D. K. (2023, February 21). What makes vinyl chloride so dangerous to your health? IFLScience. Retrieved February 26, 2023). According to the federal government's Nation Cancer Institute, it is associated with an increased risk of lung cancer and other cancers. About 1.1 million pounds were spilled during the accident and soon purposefully set ablaze, sending black plumes of smoke into the air. Upon the subjection of this toxin, immediate symptoms like dizziness and irritation to the skin and eyes may pursue. The other chemicals such as butyl acrylate and isobutylene that were also being transported at the time are also linked to a range of various acute or chronic adverse health effects depending on the level of frequency and exposure.

Just days following the incident officials lifted the evacuation order, assuring any immediate danger had passed. As stated by the EPA, their continuous testing of the air and water has not yet shown a threat to the community and they have deemed it safe to return. But residents of Palestine and neighboring communities beg to differ as they deal with and witness the repercussions. After returning home, locals have reported having difficulty breathing, headaches, nausea as well as eye and skin irritation, some even experiencing rashes and bloody noses. The feeling of frustration grows and many are not impressed by the railroad company's, or the Biden Administration's efforts, (or lack there of), to help the town as they continue to cope with the potential life-threating damage that has been done.

This traumatic event has not only affected people, but animals and even the Earth alike. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources estimates a total of 3,500 aquatic animals have died on account of the derailment, yet it is claimed that the water in the area is safe to drink. Local's have watched as their pets are falling ill and, in some situations, dying. Many feel unsafe in the place they once called "home" and also distrustful of those who are assuring it is safe. Toxicologist have agreed with their skepticism, stating "it is unknown now what chemicals remain in the ground, or atmosphere, that may migrate over time to eventually contaminate a person's well, or a child playing in that vicinity" ('I Don't Feel Safe' Ohio's Derailed Train Left a Cloud of Distrust, 2023 YouTube. Retrieved February 26, 2023).Unfortunately, the aftermath of this poisonous wreck has led to health and environmental concerns that are still lingering three weeks later and may be for decades to come.


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