by Joseph McKinnon
The freight train that derailed Feb. 3 in East Palestine, Ohio, may not have exploded outright as some had feared, but it still managed to expel various toxic chemicals.
While officials have suggested that the deadly chemicals in the smoke that darkened the sky over the village do not pose a threat to human beings, some locals are not convinced, particularly as their animals have taken ill and in some cases perished.
What are the details?
According to National Transportation Safety Board member Michael Graham, the Norfolk Southern train was carrying 141 loaded cars, nine empty cars, and three locomotives. Around 50 cars went off the tracks.
Graham suggested that the suspected cause of the derailment was “mechanical issues on one of the railcar axles.”
A wheel bearing may have overheated, leading to a fire and, in turn, the derailment, reported WKBN.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obtained a video that shows what appears to be sparks and flames beneath the train as it passed an equipment plant in Salem, Ohio, approximately 20 miles away from where the train ultimately went off the rails.
The thick column of smoke that darkened the sky above East Palestine after the derailment contained fumes from the toxic chemicals stored in the wrecked cars, such as vinyl chloride, hydrogen chloride, and phosgene.
WKBN reported that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cautioned Norfolk Southern that an additional three chemicals were aboard the breached and derailed trains: ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate, and isobutylene.
Silverado Caggiano, a hazardous materials specialist, told WKBN that ethylhexyl acrylate is a carcinogen that can cause burning and irritation in the skin and eyes, as well as breathing problems. He noted that isobutylene can also cause dizziness and drowsiness if inhaled.
Ashok Kumar, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of Toledo, told ABC News that phosgene fume inhalation could result in chest constriction and choking.
TheBlaze previously reported that Norfolk Southern, under the supervision of purported experts and first responders, performed a controlled breach of several rail cars.
The reasoning behind the controlled release of the deadly chemicals was to avert a “catastrophic tanker failure” that could have resulted in a massive explosion, throwing fumes and shrapnel a far distance.
The controlled releases were deemed “low-level,” however the aforementioned health consequences are all still possible, suggested Kumar, in addition to various cancers resultant of encounters with long-term carcinogens like vinyl chloride.
Kevin Crist, director of Ohio University’s Air Quality Center, noted that breathing in heavy concentrations of the chemicals that spewed forth from the derailed cars would be “really bad for you. … It’s like an acid mist. It’s not something that you want to be around in high concentrations.”
Caggiano painted a bleaker picture, telling WKBN, “We basically nuked a town with chemicals so we could get a railroad open.”
Villagers within a one-mile radius of the wreck were cautioned by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) and Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) that remaining in the impacted area could put them in “grave danger of death” and were subsequently evacuated.
Evacuees were told last week that it was safe to return home after the Environmental Protection Agency indicated that air-monitoring tests had not found any toxic threats.
Although the smoke may have cleared, there is no guarantee East Palestine can put the consequences of the derailment behind it.
Caggiano said, “There’s a lot of what-ifs, and we’re going to be looking at this thing 5, 10, 15, 20 years down the line and wondering, ‘Gee, cancer clusters could pop up, you know, well water could go bad.'”
Some residents in East Palestine and nearby towns have seen animals begin to drop dead.
Taylor Holzer runs Parker Dairy outside the evacuation zone with his family. He also keeps foxes.
Holzer told WKBN that after the derailment, one of his foxes “just started coughing really hard, just shut down, and he had liquid diarrhea and just went very fast.”
While the one fox perished quickly, Holzer’s other foxes have been suffering from a variety of health issues, from puffy faces to gastrointestinal troubles.
Holzer is convinced that his animals’ recent afflictions didn’t “just happen out of nowhere. … The chemicals that we’re being told are safe in the air, that’s definitely not safe for the animals … or people.”
CBS Pittsburgh reported that hundreds of fish have turned up dead in Leslie Run, approximately five miles away from the site of the derailment. While the EPA has acknowledged that fish are dying, it stressed that well water remains safe to drink.
Amanda Breshears, who lives 10 miles away from East Palestine, said upon going to feed her hens and rooster days after the derailment, she found them all lifeless.
“My video camera footage shows my chickens were perfectly fine before they started this burn, and as soon as they started the burn, my chickens slowed down and they died,” she told WKBN. “If it can do this to chickens in one night, imagine what it’s going to do to us in 20 years.”
“For them to say the air quality is OK, I’m calling B.S.,” said Breshears, who complained of watery eyes after going outside just briefly.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture has issued a statement “assuring Ohioans its food supply is safe and the risk to livestock remains low following the East Palestine train derailment.”
The ODA recommended that local residents who notice unusual behavior in their livestock or pets should contact their veterinarians for further guidance.
Politicians like Marjorie Taylor-Greene are angry and demanding a response.