Illness, foul odors, and dying animals reported by locals near Ohio train derailment

by Chris Lange

Chris Lange, FISM News


A town hall meeting will take place this evening for affected residents of a small Ohio town upended by a train derailment that exposed them to toxic chemicals. Many locals have reported signs that could point to catastrophic fallout for human and animal life in the area.

The Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio prompted Gov. Mike DeWine to order an emergency evacuation of residents within a 1.2-mile radius so hazmat crews could conduct a controlled burn of thousands of gallons of vinyl chloride housed in five of the 20 train cars in an emergency attempt to avert an explosion. Vinyl chloride is a cancer-causing, explosive chemical used in the manufacturing process of hard plastic such as PVC pipe. The vinyl chloride was converted to phosgene gas, a lethal chemical that was used as a weapon in World War 1.

Evacuees began returning to their homes following an announcement by state and local health officials that it was “safe” to do so, only to learn that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigators had discovered that other cars containing additional hazardous chemicals were “derailed, breached and/or on fire.”  These substances included: 

  • Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether — an industrial solvent that is toxic to the liver and kidneys and can be absorbed through the skin
  • ethylhexyl acrylate a known carcinogen that is highly toxic to the lungs and nervous system
  • Butyl acrylate a highly flammable chemical that can cause eye and skin burns and permanent lung damage
  • Isobutylene a highly flammable chemical compound that has been shown to cause coma or death at high levels of exposure

Today’s town hall comes amid multiple reports by local residents of billowing plumes of black smoke, foul odors, and sick and dying fish and livestock. Some have also reported experiencing headaches, rashes, and general feelings of malaise as well as the deaths and illnesses of pets, according to Environmental Health News and Fox News reports

According to the Ohio EPA, inspectors observed spilled chemicals flowing into storm drains. Other chemicals were buried on site.


“They haven’t really told me anything useful,” East Palestine resident Nathan Velez told Fox News’s “Jesse Watters Primetime” on Monday. “And when they did tell us, we were already given the OK to go home, so there is people already home, and then they released [a list of] all of the chemicals that were also within in that wreck,” Velez continued, reflecting the growing mistrust among locals concerning the veracity of the information provided to them thus far.

The impact of the derailment appears to have spread well beyond the 1.2-mile radius of the evacuation. East Palestine is located roughly 51 miles northwest of Pittsburgh and within 20 miles of part of West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle.

Officials in Weirton, West Virginia reported last week that they had detected butyl acrylate in their waterways.

In Pennsylvania, a class action lawsuit has been filed against Norfolk Southern on behalf of residents who claim that they have been sickened by toxic chemicals released from the vinyl chloride burn in East Palestine that have been released into the air, according to local ABC affiliate WTAE.

Attorney Brad Trust who represents the plaintiffs said: “Right now, we have clients with respiratory problems, problems with breathing.” 

The suit is among several that have been filed in the aftermath of the derailment, with more likely to follow.

Trust said that Norfolk Southern should establish a real-time collection of data reflecting health concerns and provide “medical monitoring [to] residents in the affected area.”

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) told The Hill that he has called on state and federal EPA authorities to ensure that locally affected families are offered complete testing and continued health monitoring. He also wants assurance that Norfolk Southern will pay for the cleanup.

Norfolk Southern said on Monday that it had conducted hundreds of in-home air tests and thousands of outdoor tests as well as water testing in municipal drinking water and public and private wells. Norfolk Southern said it will release the results next week. The company also noted that it had distributed more than $1 million directly to families to cover costs related to the evacuation and donated 100 air purifiers in addition to donations made to the local fire station and Red Cross.

It also announced plans to create a new monitoring system and a task force to monitor local water supplies for possible contamination. 

The National Transportation Safety Board said in an investigation update released on Tuesday that it examined surveillance video of the derailment and observed “a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment.”