Burning Skin, Headaches, Anger & Uncertainty: Ohioans Still Suffering After Toxic Train Wreck
Smoke rises from a derailed cargo train in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 4, 2023.InternationalIndiaAfricaWASHINGTON (Sputnik) – Residents of East Palestine, Ohio, the site of a train wreck that resulted in a so-called controlled release of chemicals, told Sputnik they have continued to experience headaches and burning skin, among other symptoms, and are filled with anxiety about whether they are all subject to long-term health risks such as cancer. On February 3, a train hauling 20 cars with hazardous materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. A massive fire erupted as a result of the derailment, leading to officials burning vinyl chloride inside five of the tanker cars in order to avoid a catastrophic explosion. The chemicals inside the five rail cars were diverted and burnt as part of what officials called a “controlled release,” letting off toxic chemicals such as hydrogen chloride and phosgene into the environment. Other chemicals released include butyl acrylate, ethylhexyl acrylate, ethylene glycol monobutyl, according to media reports. In addition to people, the chemicals took a toll on wildlife in the area. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources told Sputnik around 3,500 fish died in waterways near the site of the train derailment. © AP Photo / Ohio National GuardThe Ohio National Guard, ONG 52nd Civil Support Team members prepare to enter an incident area to assess remaining hazards with a lightweight inflatable decontamination system (LIDS) in East Palestine, OhioThe Ohio National Guard, ONG 52nd Civil Support Team members prepare to enter an incident area to assess remaining hazards with a lightweight inflatable decontamination system (LIDS) in East Palestine, OhioOfficials at first repeatedly claimed the air quality and drinking water did not pose threats but, finally, Governor Mike DeWine announced on Friday that a creek near East Palestine is still “severely contaminated.” He noted it will take time to remediate the situation. Meanwhile, the Biden administration announced it would deploy a team of toxicologists to the site. Nadine Lucie Straile does not live in East Palestine but began to experience a horrible headache and burning of the skin after she ate dinner at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant near the site of the controlled release on February 7. “That night my eye’s started burning like never before and then a horrible headache came on,” Straile told Sputnik. “My lips, tongue and throat, nasals were burning… a day later I started tingling all over my body.” Her neighbors, who live some 20 miles from where the controlled burn took place, are also experiencing symptoms, possibly because the wind spread the toxic chemicals further into the region, she added. “This was not a neuropathy tingling. A different type, even my breast. My neighbors are experiencing some of the same symptoms,” Straile said. “My blood pressure went sky high, probably from the pain, the ER [Emergency Room] said.”Heather Ann, who lives about four miles from East Palestine, also experienced headaches, burning skin sensation, difficulty breathing and sinus issues in the wake of the incident. AmericasRail Firm Refuses to Answer Ohio Citizen’s Questions Over Chemical Disaster17 February, 18:33 GMT“The smell is gone now but it was noticeable the week it happened and the air felt difficult to breathe. My dog was also coughing the day it happened,” she said. Heather Ann said she does not feel confident in what officials are saying about air and water quality being deemed safe weeks after the incident took place. “They only evacuated 1 mile and then two miles out but we are four miles away and had symptoms,” she added. “I don’t understand why they didn’t evacuate a further radius. Or why they are saying it’s all safe. I noticed the water in town no longer looks as clean and had a strange film on top.” Luke Galvan said the whole experience has felt like a movie, shocking that it’s occurring in his small town, which has a population of nearly 5,000 people. “My wife and I were like everybody from town, kind of looking at the spectacle of the train burning,” Galvan said. “Nobody thought that it was going to be as big as what it was.” Galvan said after evacuating to his mother’s house, about six miles away, he stopped experiencing the symptoms, only to have them return. “We went back into town a few times to try to take care of the cats and stuff, and I get the same deal… my eyes burning, kind of the same thing that I felt,” Galvan explained. Residents in East Palestine are upset that they are not getting clear answers about whether they are at risk to any long term health issues, according to Galvan.
Confusion & Shared Frustration With Government
Jenna Harris who lives five miles away from the site of the derailment told Sputnik there is frustration shared among many about officials advising residents to keep drinking bottled water contrary to their assurances that the town’s drinking water is safe. “We are not getting any solid information from any officials on what we as citizens of East Palestine should be doing,” Harris said. “They just want us to go back to normal.” Harris said she was worried that kids went back to school on Monday, which is much closer to ground zero, two miles away at most. Harris pointed out that all the scientific jargon on this matter also causes confusion as they try to understand what long-term consequences they face, especially for their children who she fears could suffer the brunt of this incident. “I am concerned for my health, my partner’s health, obviously, but my children are in the forefront because they are young, they’re only 11 and eight, and we don’t know what they’re being exposed to and they’re in town all day at school,” Harris said. Harris said she noticed the smell of chemicals gets stronger the closer she got to her children’s school. She expressed uncertainty whether the schools went through a thorough cleansing to ensure the safety of their children inside and outside the school. Harris also noticed dead fish in Leslie Run Creek, which is one of the waterways most impacted by the toxic chemicals. Harris said residents gathered at a town hall meeting in Negley, Ohio, near East Palestine, where the Bryant Law Center discussed the possibility of joining a class action lawsuit against the Norfolk Southern railroad company, which is allegedly responsible for the derailment. AmericasOhio Residents Bear Witness to Environmental Disaster Cover-Up15 February, 18:02 GMTJanine Evans Michaela Bates of Negley, Ohio, about four miles south of East Palestine, attended a town hall meeting as well but also echoed concerns that residents are still not confident in the information they are given. Bates said they claim they’re monitoring the air, but she hasn’t seen any evidence of this recently. “I mean, the first couple days, they had helicopters going over, they had planes going over. I haven’t seen anybody. And they, like I say they still have cars laying there. And they haven’t cleaned the ground up yet where they burned it,” she said. Bates added that the smell in East Palestine as of Wednesday morning is terrible. “There’s no birds around, the birds are gone,” Bates said. Erica Morrow, who has lived in East Palestine for 36 years, expressed concern over what lies ahead. “We have experienced severe anxiety, anger and devastation over the uncertainty of our family’s future, as well as the future of our community,” Morrow said. “We have a lot of concerns and unanswered questions. I am not confident in the information we are being provided, I do not believe the air or water can be safe.”