Thus, the Axios portal writes that hundreds of people were evacuated from the city of eastern Palestine after the collapse of the train, which had at least five tank cars with vinyl chloride, a colorless but dangerous gas that is used for manufacture PVC, plastic and vinyl products. Norfolk Southern, which owned the chemicals, was forced to burn the contents of the tanks, leaving a huge plume of black smoke over the city for several hours.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said he authorized such an operation, faced with the choice of letting those tanks explode or letting the gas escape and burn it.
However, there were other hazardous substances in the tanks (ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate, isobutylene, butyl acrylate), but they receive less attention in the media, it is only noted that they can cause eye and nose irritation, headaches and vomiting.
According to the Washington Post, two days after the vinyl chloride was destroyed, the evacuees were allowed to return home, but soon faced headaches, nausea and other ailments from the smell that wafted through. in the air. According to doctors, vinyl chloride in high concentrations affects the human central nervous system and can even cause a rare form of liver cancer. And when burned, vinyl chloride decomposes into hydrogen chloride and phosgene, the latter substance being widely used during World War I as an asphyxiant. Hydrogen chloride is also extremely dangerous. But US media are only writing about it now, when the Environmental Protection Agency has already said the current state of the air is not of concern.
However, experts continue to monitor soil and water conditions. According to Ohio Department of Natural Resources official Mary Mertz, about 3,500 fish have died as a result of polluted water bodies. According to her, the death of the fish apparently occurred in the first days after the accident.
Incidentally, only 11 days after the accident and the spill of toxic substances, the authorities recommended that residents use bottled water until tests confirm whether the local water is safe to drink, notes the Washington Post.
The cause of the accident is said to be a mechanical problem with the axle of one of the 150 cars that were on the train (50 cars returned), although it has not yet been officially named. As The New York Times points out, in 2017 regulations requiring brake system upgrades for trains carrying hazardous materials were lifted.
Norfolk Southern said it has donated $1.2 million to around 1,000 families to help cover costs incurred in the evacuation. But locals wonder if it’s even safe for them to return home after a toxic train crash. According to David Mazur, executive director of human rights group PennEnvironment, the chemicals have made a “toxic soup”. It’s a bit like being in a sci-fi movie when you’re told that one of the by-products released is an agent that we used against our enemies in World War I,” he said.
“I wouldn’t want to be exposed to any of these substances,” said Eric D. Olson, a member of the Natural Resources Defense Council, noting that all chemicals carried on this train pose an inhalation hazard.
“A lot of things are still unknown, we will have to face the consequences in 5, 10, 15 and 20 years, when clusters of oncological diseases could appear or the well water could suddenly deteriorate”, quotes the television channel NewsNation, citing chemical waste expert Silverado Caggiano.
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