Ohio, 14 February 2023 (TDI): In early February, a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in eastern Ohio, igniting a fire that swept the town of East Palestine in smoke.

A 150-car Norfolk Southern freight train carrying hazardous chemicals and other materials derailed in a town of East Palestine. The incident sparked and erupted the whole city in smoke, forcing hundreds of people to evacuate the town for several days.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on February 12 it had not detected any levels of concern of hazardous substances released during and after the crash. However, it said it was continuing to monitor the air throughout East Palestine.

The EPA said it was investigating soil and surface water contamination near the crash site and had collected spilled material in a nearby stream.

In a letter sent to the company on February 10, the EPA said substances released during the incident “were observed and detected in samples from Sulphur Run, Leslie Run, Bull Creek, North Fork Little Beaver Creek, Little Beaver Creek, and the Ohio River” and were also observed entering storm drains.

So far, at least four class action lawsuits have been filed against Norfolk Southern over the crash, alleging negligence.

Concerning matters

The train was pulling at least five tanker cars containing vinyl chloride, a colorless but hazardous gas used to produce PVC plastic and vinyl products.

Norfolk Southern officials said the cars carrying the vinyl chloride were not breached during the crash but were at risk of exploding, so crews released and burned their contents on Feb. 6, creating a massive smoke plume above the town for several hours.

According to EPA, acute exposure to high levels of vinyl chloride, a classified human carcinogen, in the air has been linked to central nervous system effects, while chronic exposure has been shown to cause liver damage, including a rare form of liver cancer.

According to the International Programme on Chemical Safety, when vinyl chloride burns it decomposes into hydrogen chloride and phosgene.

Phosgene is highly poisonous and was used extensively during World War 1.

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Although the authorities tested the area and gave a positive result and allowed the evacuated to return to their homes, the residents complained of smells, headaches, nausea, and other ailments.

Some residents have also reported that they found their pets dead, which includes chickens and fish.