Ohio health officials are launching a clinic to treat residents from the fallout of the catastrophic train derailment on February 3.
The announcement comes after residents report a wave of sickness despite officials ruling there were no health hazards detected in the town’s water or air. Some report burning eyes, loose stool and headaches since the crash.
Toxic chemicals such as vinyl chloride, benzene, isobutylene were leaked after Norfolk Southern train 32N derailed near the small town on the border between Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The substances released during the incident can cause symptoms that match the nausea, dizziness and shortness of breath residents have suffered since the event.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Michael Regan took two weeks to visit the community. Meanwhile, Republicans are calling for secretary of transportation Pete Buttigieg to resign over his handling of the derailment.
The chemicals on the board the train were vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, benzene residue, glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate and isobutylene
Toxic chemicals such as vinyl chloride, benzene, isobutylene were leaked after Norfolk Southern train 32N derailed near the small town on the border between Ohio and Pennsylvania
Residents in East Palestine and further afield are reporting waves of sickness weeks on from the explosion.
Raven Ramsey, who lives in Niles, Ohio, roughly 27 miles from East Palestine, said on Facebook: ‘All three of my kids have had coughs, watery puffy eyes, nausea and headaches.’
She added: ‘I’m concerned and don’t know where to go or start.’
Six toxic chemicals were on board the trains that derailed, two of which are known to cause cancer, and can cause irritation to the nose and eyes, and headaches when inhaled.
Melissa Ryan, a mum of two living six miles away from the derailment, said there was a ‘giant black cloud’ directly over her house.
‘We were away the weekend of the derailment but when I came back that Sunday my eyes started burning and have been doing so since. I have a cough, both my kids have a cough.
‘They are going to the pediatrician so they can listen to their lungs. I’m exhausted.’
She added: ‘Since we are outside the one mile there is absolutely no assistance for us.’
Another resident said: ‘We live about 10 miles out, household experiencing severe headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath.’
East Palestine resident Candice DeSanzo evacuated the area along with her five sons after the derailment but returned when federal authorities lifted the evacuation order.
The new health clinic will open on Tuesday, but residents can start scheduling appointments on Monday.
Registered nurse and mental health specialists will staff two assessment rooms inside the First Church of Christ, East Palestine.
A mobile unit outside the church, run by the Community Action Agency of Columbiana County, will offer more appointments.
There will also be a toxicologist either on site or accessible by phone, and referrals will be made as necessary.
Neil Figley, 28, holds his daughter, Harlie, 4, as they wait in line at the Norfolk Southern Assistance Center to collect a $1000 check and get reimbursed for expenses while they were evacuated from East Palestine, Ohio on February 17, 2023
The toxic train derailed in a fiery crash on February 3, leading authorities to evacuate the surrounding East Palestine, Ohio, area
Dr Bruce Vanderhoff, director of the Ohio Department of Health, said: ‘Last week, I was in East Palestine and listened as many area residents expressed their concerns and fears.
‘I heard you, the state heard you, and now the Ohio Department of Health and many of our partner agencies are providing this clinic, where people can come and discuss these vital issues with medical providers.’
He added: ‘We encourage anyone who has medical concerns or questions to take advantage of this resource.’
‘We all have red rashes, loose stool, congestion, eyes burning. Everything smells. I’ve been having terrible headaches,’ she told an Ideastream reporter at a community meeting held last week.
Norfolk Southern Railroad were due to attend, but pulled out a few hours prior ‘due to a growing physical threat to employees and members of the community’.
Fifty Norfolk Southern Railroad freight train cars carrying toxic vinyl chloride derailed in Columbiana County at around 9pm on Friday, February 3.
A controlled release of the cancer-causing chemicals was done by the railroad company on Monday February 6 to avert a possible explosion.
Hundreds of East Palestine residents were evacuated from their homes prior to the release but were told on February 8 it was safe for them to return. Many are doubtful it is given their symptoms.
It later emerged that three other dangerous chemicals — ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate and isobutylene — were also in the rail cars.
Taylor Holzer, a registered foxkeeper who lives outside the evacuation perimeter, told WKBN all his foxes were ill and one had died. Dead fish were also spotted in waterways around the scene after the incident.
Several people and business owners have filed class action lawsuits against Norfolk Southern.
In one lawsuit, attorney John Morgan said: ‘Residents exposed to vinyl chloride may already be undergoing DNA mutations that could linger for years or even decades before manifesting as terrible and deadly cancers.’
Morgan & Morgan calculated that in total, the train cars were carrying 1.1 million pounds of vinyl chloride, which equals more than double the total amount of vinyl chloride released into the US over the course of an entire year.
Vinyl chloride, a colorless manmade gas which burns easily, is mainly used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a hard plastic resin used to make plastic products including pipes and wire and cable exteriors.
Vinyl chloride is associated with a higher risk of a rare form of liver cancer (hepatic angiosarcoma), as well as primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma), brain and lung cancers, lymphoma and leukemia.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) lists vinyl chloride as carcinogenic to humans, which means it has sufficient scientific proof that it causes cancer in people.
People who are exposed to vinyl chloride over many years are likely to get liver damage and cancer.
Exposure can also cause drowsiness, a loss of coordination, issues with sight and hearing, disorientation, nausea, headache, and burning or tingling in the arms and legs.
But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has assured residents that both the air and water in the area are safe.
Local EPA representatives said at last week’s meeting that they could also smell the fumes and know the chemical that is causing them, but that the levels they were detecting are not high enough to impact human health.
President Joe Biden and Mr Buttigieg are still yet to make their way to East Palestine, leaving residents feeling let down. Former President Donald Trump, who is running again, is due to visit the village on Wednesday.
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