Medical clinic to open in Ohio town after toxic train derailment

Residents will be able to voice concerns and receive a health assessment.

February 20, 2023, 12:16 PM

A medical clinic is opening Tuesday in East Palestine, Ohio, more than two weeks after a train carrying hazardous materials and toxic chemicals derailed near the town.

The clinic, which will be held at the First of Christ Church in East Palestine, is being jointly run by the Ohio Department of Health and the Columbiana County Health Department and will be supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"Last week, I was in East Palestine and listened as many area residents expressed their concerns and fears," ODH Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said in a statement. "I heard you, the state heard you, and now the Ohio Department of Health and many of our partner agencies are providing this clinic, where people can come and discuss these vital issues with medical providers."

The train was operated by Norfolk Southern Railway. Hundreds of people were forced to flee the area and the incident has sparked intense concern over residents' immediate health and safety as well as any long-term consequences from the release of dangerous materials near their homes.

This photo taken with a drone shows portions of a Norfolk and Southern freight train that derailed Friday night in East Palestine, Ohio are still on fire at mid-day Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023.
Gene J. Puskar/AP

Initially there were concerns about high levels of vinyl chloride, a colorless gas that burns easily and is associated with an increased risk of several cancers including brain, liver and lung cancers as well as lymphoma and leukemia, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Data showed last week that more toxic chemicals were aboard the derailed train -- and subsequently released into the air and soil -- than originally reported.

Among these materials is ethyl acrylate, a colorless liquid and probable carcinogen which can cause drowsiness, lethargy, headaches and nausea, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Also found was isobutylene, a highly flammable gas known as a simple asphyxiant, or a gas which can become so concentrated that it can displace oxygen and lead to rapid suffocation, according to the American Chemical Society.

A large plume of smoke rises over East Palestine, Ohio, after a controlled detonation of a portion of the derailed Norfolk Southern trains Monday, Feb. 6, 2023.
Gene J. Puskar/AP

As of Sunday, the EPA said there have been no air quality or water quality concerns identified through sampling. Heavily contaminated soil, however, continues to be removed and odors still linger in the community.

Additionally, Northern Southern continues to scrap and remove rail cars from the derailment site and removed contaminated liquids from storm drains in the area, according to the EPA.

At the clinic, residents will be able to discuss concerns and receive a health assessment to see if they are suffering from exposure symptoms. If needed, clinicians will make referrals for patients. The clinic will open at noon on Tuesday and remain open every day through Saturday.

"We encourage anyone who has medical concerns or questions to take advantage of this resource," Vanderhoff said.

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