On Sunday, Norfolk Southern Railroad and the EPA revealed a list of chemicals and dangerous goods transported by a train that derailed near East Palestine, Ohio.
The derailment, which happened on February 3, resulted in a multi-day fire. To reduce the possibility of an explosion, officials opted to start a controlled release of the chemicals; all people within one mile of the accident site were instructed to evacuate, but they were allowed to return home on February 8.
Norfolk Southern sent the EPA a list of the vehicles involved in the incident as well as the substances they were transporting. The business stated that all five vehicles carrying vinyl chloride were “stabilized” when the chemical was burnt by personnel, resulting in large plumes of black smoke visible in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio.
The National Cancer Institute classifies vinyl chloride as a carcinogen connected to a rare form of liver cancer known as hepatic angiosarcoma, as well as leukemia, lymphoma, and different forms of lung and brain cancer. During an industrial worker’s eight-hour shift, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration allows for no more than one part per million of exposure.
“If a water supply is polluted, vinyl chloride can infiltrate household air when the water is used for cooking, showering or washing laundry,” the EPA stated.
One rail car holding ethylene glycol monobutyl ether has a “unknown state,” according to Norfolk Southern. According to a study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, ingesting or skin contact with the highly flammable liquid can induce headache, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. According to another statement from the agency, a second automobile was transporting isobutylene, a flammable chemical that may cause “dizziness, sleepiness, and unconsciousness” when moderate doses are breathed. Norfolk Southern stated that there are “no indicators” of a breach for the vehicle holding the substance.
A third rail car was carrying ethylhexyl acrylate, a flammable chemical used in the production of paints and plastics. According to a study from the National Library of Medicine, the chemical has been confirmed as a carcinogen in laboratory trials.
Chemicals leaked by the disaster have alarmed government officials and public utilities. West Virginia American Water, the state’s largest investor-owned water utility, said in a statement that it has found no change in raw water from its Ohio River intake but has “increased its treatment operations” as a “precautionary measure.” Customers are not presently subject to any drinking water warnings.
According to federal officials, the incident was caused by a problem with a rail car axle. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obtained video showing the Norfolk Southern train traveling more than 20 miles with a faulty rail car axle. According to CBS Pittsburgh, National Transportation Safety Board Member Michael Graham revealed during a press conference that there were “preliminary indications of mechanical concerns” with the axle.