It started with an accident on February 3rd. in East Palestine, Ohio. About 50 train cars, including some carrying hazardous materials, derailed in a fiery crash. Due to the explosion risk, North Folk Southern railroad conducted a controlled release of the vinyl chloride content in five rail cars.
Vinyl chloride is a colorless and flammable gas. It’s used to make polyvinyl chloride PVC pipes, wire coatings, vehicle upholstery, and plastic kitchenware, along with other products. According to the federal government’s national cancer institute, vinyl chloride exposure has been associated with an increased risk of liver, brain, and lung cancers, along with lymphoma and leukemia.
The controlled release involved burning the toxic chemicals, sending up a massive plume of smoke, and forcing residents to evacuate due to the risk of inhaling potentially deadly fumes. As of February 12th. the environmental protection agency had screened 291 homes in the area and did not detect vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride in any of them.
But the wildlife hasn’t been so lucky, an estimated 35 hundred fish across 12 different species have died following the derailment.