Hazardous Train Derailment in Ohio

This photo shows part of a Norfolk and Southern freight train that derailed on February 3rd in East Palestine, Ohio.

A train went off its tracks near the border of Pennsylvania and Ohio. The train crashed in a town called East Palestine, Ohio. Many of the train’s cars flipped over. While nobody was killed, this was no ordinary train crash because the train was carrying dangerous cargo.

The train carried hazardous chemicals. These chemicals are used to make products, usually in controlled settings such as factories. Companies using them need to follow rules made by a part of the government called the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). People working around them need to follow many safety rules and often wear protective gear.  

When the train derailed, people in East Palestine, Ohio, became very concerned about these chemicals damaging their environment. Hazardous chemical spills can make the air dangerous to breathe and the water dangerous to drink. They can cause health problems such as cancer.

Chemicals called vinyl chloride used to make PVC pipe was included in the hazardous spill. Officials worried these chemicals could cause a massive explosion. They made people nearby evacuate their homes. Then, they burned the chemicals in what they called a “controlled explosion” to avoid a bigger disaster.

Environmental agencies have tested the air and water in East Palestine. They claim that it is safe. Despite claims that the air and water are safe, residents remain concerned. People living in the area have complained of headaches and itching eyes. Thousands of fish in waterways were killed by chemicals spilled during the crash.

The EPA has ordered the train company, Norfolk and Southern, to pay for the massive cleanup efforts that are underway. Leaders are also discussing ways to prevent similar accidents in the future. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine wants to change rules about when residents are warned that hazardous chemicals are passing through their communities.

What Do You Think? Were you aware many of the chemicals used in everyday products can be harmful? How do you think we should make sure they are safe?

Photo Credit: Gene J. Puskar/AP Images