Scientists insist on continuing search for toxics in East Palestine

More than a month after the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, scientists insist that there is a need to continue looking for possible persistent toxicants in Ohio. They also warn that there is no clear communication between the government and affected residents.

Following the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio (United States), on February 3, officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as local and state agencies, have been monitoring water and air quality in the town. East Palestine residents continue to complain of symptoms such as headaches and shortness of breath and question official reports that chemical levels are low and safe.

“Residents have a disconnect between experiencing some symptoms and being told that everything was fine,” said Ivan Rusyn, director of the Superfund Research Center at Texas A&M University in College Station, who has led research with other scientists to measure air quality in the town. For the researchers there is a lack of clear communication between the government and the residents of East Palestine.

Three days after the accident, a 5km square area was evacuated and the chemicals the train was carrying, including vinyl chloride and butyl acrylate, were drained into pits. The materials were then burned in a controlled burn to prevent an explosion, creating a black cloud that likely created acrolein and other byproducts.

In fact, weeks after the derailment, the EPA reported that slightly elevated levels of acrolein were detected in East Palestine, concentrations that have “returned to levels below the national average,” according to the same entity. (You may be interested in: Here we explain why some beaches are disappearing in Colombia).

According to the group of researchers from the University of Texas, it is necessary to analyze a broader set of chemicals, extending those that spilled during the derailment or those that were formed with the controlled burning. The group of researchers found that, in addition to acrolein, there would be higher concentrations of four other similar compounds in surrounding areas. 

Rusyn insists that more sampling is needed, as the cleanup work will continue to excavate the contaminated soil, as well as aerate the stream water to extract the chemicals, something that could release more compounds into the air.

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