A train holding hazardous chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 3. As workers continue to clean up the mess, there is a rising concern about the impact on residents and wildlife.
The incident released chemicals into the air and contaminated soil and water. East Palestine residents deserve more accommodations from Norfolk Southern railroad company.
One of the chemicals involved in the incident was vinyl chloride. It is used to make a hard plastic resin for various objects. Exposure to this chemical can increase cancer risk and cause headaches and nausea.
Due to officials' concerns about one of the train cars exploding, workers released the chemical and burned it. However, the downside to this action is that it can release toxic gases such as hydrogen chloride and phosgene.
Aquatic life has also fallen victim to the chemical spill in local waterways. Around 3,500 fish have died from the event.
Residents have also been affected. They have been experiencing problems such as rashes, nausea and sore throats. Despite the evacuation order lifting five days after the incident, residents are reluctant to return to their homes.
Even though officials say the water is safe, residents are not taking any chances. With residents concerned with their health and families, distrust towards officials has been growing.
It also does not help to know that the railroad company responsible for this incident had past derailment incidents. A 2018 incident resulted in bottles of Listerine spilling. In 2005, a chlorine spill in South Carolina resulted in nine deaths and hundreds seeking medical care. Hundreds of fish died as well.
It is a wonder how this company has been able to run for so long with these repeated derailments.
It is no surprise that residents are unwilling to return. Along with their current health problems, they must also consider long-term health effects.
Even with some people attempting to settle into their old routines, environmental conditions are making it difficult for them. Children who returned to school were pulled out by their parents after developing rashes. People have gone to clinics because of respiratory problems and sore throats.
Things seem uncertain for residents of this community. Some have deliberated over moving, but their financial status compromises that. The railroad company, Norfolk Southern, has attempted to compensate the residents, but the damage and stress will continue to eat away at them.