Train Carrying Toxic Chemicals Derails in Ohio

On February 3rd, 2023, in the rural town of New Waterford, Ohio, a local resident filmed a train as it passed through the small Ohio town. This person filmed the train due to a wheel he noticed sparking as the Norfolk Southern train raced along the tracks. A similar event was caught fifteen miles before, when the wheel was caught on security camera footage lit on fire. Unbeknownst to all who saw the blazing wheels, the same train would derail a short time later, in East Palestine, Ohio. It caused one of the most disastrous human-caused natural disasters in the contiguous United States in recent memory. The Norfolk Southern freight train is believed to have derailed in the small town due to an overheated wheel bearing on one of its cars, which caused damage to a third of the cars and the derailment of just over half of them. While this in of itself would have been an issue, the ensuing effects of the crash remain a massive hazard to Ohioan residents. 

The train carried a myriad of chemicals, including vinyl chloride, ethylhexyl acetate, residue of benzene, and more compounds which are highly flammable and toxic in high quantities. The main concern, however, is vinyl chloride, a large amount of which was carried on the derailed cars and were involved in a chemical fire that burned for hours in the aftermath of the crash. This chemical is particularly worrying to citizens of East Palestine and neighboring towns, as vinyl chloride is a classified carcinogen, associated with many specific types of cancer after exposure, and it is uncertain the extent to which the chemical has permeated into the environment. The EPA has reported no contamination to the drinking water of East Palestine, and no significant amounts of pollution of any of the chemicals. However, reports of animals dropping dead due to exposure and an estimate of 3,500 fish deaths caused by the runoff of chemicals worry residents.

In recent days, there has been much strife among residents of the town as they try to determine how seriously they should take the threat of the chemicals. The catastrophe continues to develop, as many government officials weigh in to reaffirm that the water and air are indeed safe for consumption, and toxic chemicals seeping into the water and mixing with the air will hopefully continue to be avoided in the following weeks as the disaster develops further.


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