Residents of East Palestine Worry About Potential Health Risks from Train Derailment

Residents of East Palestine, Ohio are worried about the potential health risks posed by a train derailment that occurred on February 3rd. The 141-car Norfolk-Southern train, heading from Madison, Illinois to Conway, Pennsylvania, was carrying hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate, and isobutylene.[0] In an effort to avoid an explosion, officials released some of the chemicals in a ‘controlled’ explosion, creating a massive plume of smoke.[1]

At a public forum on Wednesday night, hundreds of local residents gathered to press state and local officials for answers about air and water testing and the risks of long-term exposure. Residents voiced their concerns about their health, with one woman asking: “Why are people getting sick if there’s nothing in the air or in the water?”[2]

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has urged Congress to consider changes to hazardous cargo notification requirements.[3] He said the train was not considered a “high-hazardous material train” despite the chemicals onboard, meaning Norfolk Southern was not required to notify the state of the contents of the cars.[4]

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a partial Norfolk Southern manifest detailing the hazardous chemicals on the train and warned Norfolk Southern that it could be liable for costs related to the derailment, including cleanup and prevention efforts.[0] However, after monitoring the air quality, the EPA said earlier in the week that it had not detected harmful levels of contaminants.[4]

Vinyl chloride is a colorless gas used to produce PVC plastic and vinyl products.[5] Inhalation of vinyl chloride can cause respiratory symptoms like shortness of breath, and neurological symptoms like headaches and dizziness.[0] Chronic exposure to high levels of vinyl chloride has been associated with liver damage and cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[4]

East Palestine residents have filed multiple class action lawsuits against Norfolk Southern, demanding money and medical monitoring for those affected.[5] One lawsuit alleges that the company’s efforts to clean up the disaster “instead worsened the situation.”[6]

As the investigation into the derailment and chemical release continues, local residents are left to worry about the potential health risks and environmental damage caused by the accident.

0. “What do we know about the Ohio train derailment and toxic chemical leak?” The Guardian, 15 Feb. 2023,

1. “About The Toxic Train Derailment In East Palestine And Our Rain Forecast” Just In Weather, 16 Feb. 2023,

2. “Ohio train derailment: Rail firm pulls out of meeting with residents” Yahoo! Voices, 16 Feb. 2023,

3. “7 key points about the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment” NPR, 16 Feb. 2023,

4. “What we know about the Ohio train derailment” Axios, 13 Feb. 2023,

5. “Here's What The Ohio Train Wreck Really Has in Common With The Chernobyl Disaster” ScienceAlert, 15 Feb. 2023,

6. “After toxic train derailment, Ohio residents report rashes and worries” The Washington Post, 16 Feb. 2023,