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16 US states contaminated by dangerous products after a train derailment in Ohio in 2023

In February 2023, a freight train carrying hazardous materials derailed in Ohio, releasing a toxic cloud. A recent study indicates that 16 American states are affected by vinyl chloride contamination.

Skin rashes, nausea or even headaches. The inhabitants of the town of East Palestine, in the state of Ohio, have been victims for a year of a wave of pollution caused by the accident of a Norfolk Southern train last year. In total, 16 states are affected by this air pollution, warns a new study published in the journal Environmental research letters this Wednesday, June 19.

On February 3, 2023, around 9 p.m., 50 cars derailed near the village of East Palestine, with 4,700 inhabitants, just 800 meters from the border with Pennsylvania, causing a gigantic fire. According National Transportation Safety Board The NTSB said the derailment was caused by a mechanical problem, saying a wheel bearing on one of the cars overheated.

According to The Washington Post, eleven of the derailed cars were carrying hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride, a carcinogenic substance commonly used in construction. Fearing a new explosion, authorities ordered the evacuation of thousands of residents, before carrying out a controlled release of vinyl chloride contained in the damaged trains, spreading a toxic plume into the air.

Vinyl chloride, soot…

As vinyl chloride burned, the gas broke down into chloride and hydrogen ions in the atmosphere, before being carried by wind to other areas. The toxic chemicals then rained down from South Carolina to Wisconsin and New England, the study reports. In total, the contamination spread to 16 states or 1.4 million square kilometers.

“I didn’t expect to see such a far-reaching impact,” David Gay, lead author of the study, told the Washington Post.

“There is a lot more going on here than most people would have imagined, including me,” he added. To evaluate the consequences of the train accident, the University of Wisconsin at Madison collects these land deposits every week at 260 locations in North America.

Numerous samples taken during the week of the accident in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and New York were reported to be contaminated with soot, ash and other components.

Analysis shows that the impacts of the fire were greater in scale and scope than initial predictions. Elevated concentrations of chloride have also been detected as far away as Virginia, South Carolina and Wisconsin. The highest concentrations were located near the Canada-New York border, driven by wind from the village of East Palestine.

A health and environmental disaster

Since the 2023 train accident, people living near the crash site have reported suffering from rashes, nausea, and headaches. In fact, chloride constitutes a potential threat to health and the environment, David Gay recalled to the British newspaper The Guardian. Researchers estimate that 110 million people, or a third of the country’s population, were affected by the pollution.

Although pollution levels were very high during the first two weeks after the fire, they decreased significantly in the third week. “This is further proof that this [la pollution] It is related to the train accident,” David Gay told the British newspaper.

In the days that followed, fears began to grow of a broader environmental disaster in neighboring regions. Interviewed by the Washington Post in 2023, Mary Mertz, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, indicated that approximately 3,500 fish died due to pollution of local waterways, including the Ohio River.

Author: Edouard Orlane
Source: BFM TV

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