Hazardous Chemicals from East Palestine Derailment Affect 16 States, 110 Million People

(RepublicanNews.org) – The impact of last year’s train wreck and subsequent chemical burning in East Palestine, Ohio, is worse than initially thought as a new study found that the toxic compounds spread further than originally anticipated and raised health concerns in surrounding communities.

On Wednesday, June 19th, the scientific journal Environmental Research Letters published a study that found the fallout from the East Palestine disaster released chemicals across a much wider range than expected.

On Feb. 3rd, 2023, 38 cars of Norfolk Southern freight train carrying various hazardous materials derailed. The accident took place near the Pennsylvania border and the Appalachian foothills. For over two days, several of the cars burned, and then emergency crews initiated controlled burns.

Authorities decided to do the controlled burns because there was concern the ongoing blaze would cause a large explosion, so vinyl chloride was drained into a trench from the other cars and then lit on fire in an attempt to minimize the impact. The railcar cargo pyre released the chemicals phosgene and hydrogen chloride into the air, resulting in a miles-wide radius evacuation of thousands of residents from surrounding areas in Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

The Environmental Research Letters study found that the carcinogenic pollutants from the burning actually reached 16 states, spreading out over 540,000 square miles, from Maine and South Carolina to Wisconsin. The study’s authors said that the findings prove the impacts from controlled burnings “were larger in scale and scope” than initially predicted. Experts initially expected the pollution to remain largely an issue of local contamination.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) later admitted that the controlled burns, which violated Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules, were unnecessary.

The study was conducted by collecting samples of inorganic compounds from snow and rainfall across various locations throughout the country to gauge how far the fallout spread. David Gay, a program coordinator for the National Atmospheric Deposition, led the study and said that although the pollution isn’t “melting steel” or eroding paint from buildings, it remains a “very extreme” problem.

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