There were more toxic chemicals on train that derailed in Ohio than originally reported, data shows

Among the substances were ethylene glycol monobutyl ether and isobutylene.

February 13, 2023, 4:33 PM

There were more toxic chemicals aboard the train that derailed in Ohio than originally reported, new data shows.

State health officials were initially concerned about the presence of vinyl chloride, a highly volatile colorless gas produced for commercial uses, which spilled after about 50 cars on a Norfolk Southern Railroad train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 3 while traveling from Illinois to Pennsylvania. Other toxins, like phosgene and hydrogen chloride, were emitted in large plumes of smoke during a controlled release and burn, prompting officials to issue mandatory evacuation orders in a one-mile radius of the crash site.

A list of the cars that were involved in the derailment and the products they were carrying released by Norfolk Southern reveal several more toxic chemicals that were released into the air and soil following the crash.

Firefighters battle a blaze from a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 4, 2023.
Gene J. Puskar/AP

Among the substances were ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate and isobutylene were also in the rail cars that were derailed, the list shows.

Contact with ethylhexyl acrylate, a carcinogen, can cause burning and irritation of the skin and eyes, and inhalation can irritate the nose and throat, causing shortness of breath and coughing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Inhalation of isobutylene can cause dizziness and drowsiness as well, while exposure to ethylene glycol monobutyl ether can caused irritation in the eyes, skin, nose and throat, as well as hematuria, or blood in the urine, nervous system depression, headache and vomiting, according to the CDC.

The toxins that burned in the wreckage had the potential to be deadly if officials did not order evacuations in the region, experts told ABC News last week. However, once the controlled burn was complete, the only risk of coming in contact with the toxins was if they were embedded in the soil, which then had to be dug out, Kevin Crist, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and director of Ohio University’s Air Quality Center, told ABC News last week.

The evacuation orders for the residents in East Palestine were lifted on on Feb. 8 after air and water samples that were collected in the region were deemed safe.

The cleanup of portions of a Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed Friday night in East Palestine, Ohio, continues, Feb. 9, 2023.
Gene J. Puskar/AP

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Monday evening that has not yet detected any concerning levels of toxins in the air quality that can be attributed to the crash since the controlled burn was complete. There are six EPA staffers and 16 contractors on the ground to assist with air monitoring actions, according to the agency.

"Residents may still smell odors from the site," the EPA said, suggesting that those experiencing any symptoms call their medical provider.

The EPA has also screened 291 homes near the crash site and has not detected any levels of vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride, the agency said. As of Monday, 181 homes still needed to be screened.

Local schools and the library were screened on Sunday, according to the agency.

A lawsuit filed by two residents of East Palestine on Feb. 9 called for the rail operator to pay for medical screenings and related care for anyone living within a 30-mile radius of the crash site, as well as undetermined damages, The Associated Press reported.

Some of the toxins spilled into the Ohio River near the northern panhandle of West Virginia, causing officials to shut down water production in the area and transfer to an alternate source of water supply, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice told reporters during a news conference on Feb. 8.

A black plume rises over East Palestine, Ohio, as a result of a controlled detonation of a portion of the derailed Norfolk Southern trains, Feb. 6, 2023.
Gene J. Puskar/AP, FILE

While Justice emphasized that "everything is fine here" due to the immediate action from agencies like the state's Department of Environmental Protection and the National Guard, water utility company West Virginia American Water is continuing to enhance its water treatment process as a precaution, according to the AP.

The water utility installed a secondary intake on the Guyandotte River in the event that they need to switch to an alternate water source, the AP reported.

A town hall has been scheduled to take place on Wednesday at 7 p.m. to allow residents to ask questions about the effects of the derailment, East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway announced in a press release on Sunday.