Ohio train derailment leads to environmental concerns

Radioactive chemicals from train derailment in East Palestine Ohio cause a predicted 43,700 animal deaths in the area of east Palestine Ohio


Dustin Franz / AFP / Getty Images / TNS

Smoke rises from a derailed cargo train in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 4, 2023.

Henry Fitzgerald, Freshman Correspondant

Just before 9 p.m., on Feb. 20, the Northfolk Southern train derailed causing radioactive chemicals to spread throughout the nearby area. Although no people have died as of yet, a predicted 43,700 animals were killed within the first 3 days.

This has caused outrage and has led many to wonder if how they dealt with the problem first hand had possibly caused most of these deaths.

“They had to do a controlled burn of the vinyl chloride in order to prevent an even worse disaster, and when you burn vinyl chloride, it decomposes into phosgene and hydrogen chloride,” said Kaley Freund, advisor of the environmental club. “Vinyl chloride in itself is a carcinogen that has been linked to liver damage and cancer.”

Some people think that the Trump administration could be to blame for this event.

“It’s more likely that a law rescinded by the Trump administration would be to blame since the Trump Administration infamously rolled back over 100 environmental rules during his time in office,” added Freund.  “There was a rumor out there that a law repealed by the Trump Administration requiring electronic braking systems in high hazard flammable trains would have prevented this disaster.”

Regardless of the cause of the derailment, many Ohio residents feel as though they will not recover from what has been lost. 

“I don’t think the issue is resolvable from an environmental standpoint,” added Freund. “Only time will tell what the long term effects of this disaster will be. It’s hard to get toxins out of the environment once they are there.”

There are over 1,000 train derailments a year and some groups are trying to reduce that number. In addition, groups such as the National Transportation Safety Board are attempting to track down the cause of train derailments such as this one to ensure these issues don’t continue. 

The NTSB states,“The NTSB is conducting a safety investigation to determine the probable cause of the derailment and issue any safety recommendations, if necessary, to prevent future derailments. The NTSB can also issue urgent recommendations at any point during the investigation.”

Locals are still being affected by the chemical spill on Feb. 20, and the chemicals are still spread in the area.