We are learning more about the extent of damage caused by the Ohio train derailment in February. We know that a number of the cars contained vinyl chloride, a dangerous material that led to serious fires and toxins within the air, water, and soil of the community surrounding the train derailment site and beyond, but we do not yet know the full level of contamination. We are unsure how much of these toxins will reach the Ohio River and how far the dangers could spread.
It is important to keep moving forward — to continue to gather information and learn more about the situation. In an earlier post, we discussed what caused the derailment. This post will focus more specifically on the risks to those in surrounding communities.
What is vinyl chloride and should I worry about exposure?
Vinyl chloride is a colorless gas used in various plastics commonly found in materials like PVC piping, upholstery, and plastic kitchen silverware. Exposure in the gaseous or liquid states of this material is dangerous.
How dangerous is vinyl chloride?
Exposure can lead to:
- Cancer. We already know exposure to this toxin is linked to the development of liver cancer. There is concern that it could also lead to a higher risk of other cancers as well.
- Organ damage. We know it can permanently damage the liver. It is possible this chemical can damage other organs.
- Asthma. Inhalation can lead to irritation to the lungs and the development of asthma.
- Damage to the nervous system. Exposure often first impacts our nervous system. Symptoms can include dizziness, fatigue, numbness, and tingling of the fingers, arms and other extremities.
Additional dangers include damage to the heart, skin, and bones. There is also the potential for issues with reproduction and development.
What should I do if I become sick?
If you or a loved one begins to suffer common symptoms of illness due to exposure to vinyl chloride it is generally wise to seek medical care. Keep records of the date and symptom, medical treatment, and bills. This information will serve as important evidence so you can hold the responsible party accountable for the damage they caused. At this time, it is likely Norfolk Southern, the company that owns the trains, is responsible for the damage caused to the community and residents exposed to the toxins released by the crash.