A group of scientists performed an analysis of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s data measuring levels of pollutants in East Palestine, Ohio, after a train derailment forced officials to slowly release and burn some of the toxic chemicals in the area to avoid an explosion. What the scientists found could cause negative effects on the environment and health of its residents.
The Washington Post reported that a group of researchers from Texas A&M and Carnegie Mellon University analyzed measurements from EPA reports and discovered “nine air pollutants at levels that, if they persist, could raise long-term health concerns in and around East Palestine.”
What chemicals were in East Palestine after train derailment?
One of the harmful chemicals discovered to have higher levels was a chemical called acrolein. It’s “a hazardous substance found in smoke,” per the Post.
Some factors could increase the impacts of those chemicals in the area, such as “temperature changes or high winds” that could “stir up the chemicals and release them into the atmosphere,” according to CNN.
Researchers emphasized that to experience those long-term health impacts, residents would have to be exposed to those pollutants for months or years.
“It’s not elevated to the point where it’s necessarily like an immediate ‘evacuate the building’ health concern,” said Albert Presto, an associate research professor at Carnegie Mellon University and one of the scientists monitoring chemical analyses of East Palestine, per CNN. “But, you know, we don’t know necessarily what the long-term risk is or how long that concentration that causes that risk will persist.”
East Palestine residents complained of negative health symptoms for weeks
The data provides validation to East Palestine residents who have complained of rashes, nausea, headaches and other symptoms they weren’t dealing with before the accident. But the EPA initially said no harmful levels remained afterward and said it was safe to return to the area after being evacuated during the release and burn process.
Out of the 150 train cars, about 20 contained hazardous substances. Residents and visitors to the area report that “chemical smells — with notes of burning plastic, nail polish remover and glue — have lingered there for weeks,” according to The New York Times.
Experts say the smell doesn’t necessarily indicate harm, but scientists, the EPA and residents are still looking into it.
White House considers sending economic relief to East Palestine
The response and reaction to the disaster by the Biden administration has been harshly criticized on both sides, but especially from Republicans. Former President Donald Trump visited the town on his 2024 presidential campaign trail, days before Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg made a visit, and called the administration out for a slow response.
Under that scrutiny, White House aides are considering the possibility of sending economic aide to East Palestine, The Washington Post reported.
The administration sent federal teams to go to East Palestine over the weekend to check in on the people affected by the wreck.
“They reached about 350 families in less than 48 hours — and they’re not done yet,” White House spokesperson Abdullah Hasan tweeted.