Train Derailments Strike Massive Concern Throughout Ohio


Tommy Cramer

Train tracks located in Perkasie, Pennsylvania

On Feb. 3, 2023, a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in Eastern Ohio, igniting a fire that swept the town and released many chemicals into the air. These chemicals included vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, and ethylhexyl acrylate which can cause headaches, nausea, and respiratory problems in people exposed to it (ABC News). According to the Ohio Department of Health, when vinyl chloride (which may increase a person’s chance of developing cancer) is exposed in the environment, it breaks down from sunlight within a few days and changes into other chemicals such as formaldehyde (NBC News). When it is spilled in soil or surface water, the chemical evaporates into the air quickly, leading to possibly deadly health effects. In addition, isobutylene was emitted into the air which leads to dizziness and drowsiness, as well as monobutyl, ether, phosgene, and hydrogen chloride.

According to West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, some of these toxins spilled into the Ohio River near the northern panhandle of West Virginia, causing officials to shut down water production in the area and transfer to an alternate source of water supply. Charlie Clontz, a student at Pennridge High School, was very concerned about the fact of all these chemicals getting released into the air and water, stating that the government should, “build train specific railroads for carrying toxic material that do not go through populated areas.” By the government doing this, the likelihood of an event as big as this is far less likely to occur. Liam Lloyd, a student at Pennridge High School, was also increasingly concerned about these train derailments, stating that the government should, “have certain regulations that check the trains daily, and also put a cap on the amount of chemicals so crashes aren’t as fatal.” Liam’s idea would certainly decrease the odds of an event as large as this reoccurring.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Environmental Protection Agency opened up an investigation on the derailments and advised local residents to evacuate the area leading schools to be closed for a week. Six Environmental Protection Agency staffers and 16 contractors were on the ground to assist with air monitoring actions and mentioned, “Residents may smell odors from the sight.” According to the WCPO, a news station in Cincinnati, the Environmental Protection Agency has reportedly screened 525 homes near the crash site as of Feb. 18 and luckily, none of them show any detection of vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride. Many residents are furious about the fact that they need to pay for their own medical screenings and some have come forward about this problem (WCPO). According to the Associated Press, two residents of East Palestine were so furious that they filed a lawsuit on Feb. 9 calling for the rail operator to pay for medical screenings and related care for anyone living within a 30-mile radius of the crash site, as well as undetermined damages. With all the negative effects that have directly affected residents, Ohio plans to open a clinic on Tuesday, Feb. 21 to address families and citizens with any questions relating to the train derailment and its effects (NBC News).