On February 3rd one of the worst environmental disasters in US history happened when thousands of pounds of Vinyl Chloride was released in a “controlled breach” following the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
Ashok Kumar, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of Toledo, told ABC News that the controlled breach was meant to prevent a “catastrophic tanker failure”. The controlled breach was deemed to be “low level” and that it posed no harm to the community.
Despite people not being able to breath and their pets dying, the EPA has declared the air safe. EPA Administrator Michael Regan told GMA 3 that if he were in the community, he would return if “state, local and federal government had cleared me to do so. I would not drink the water if the water had not been tested. But if the water has been tested, I trust what the science is saying.”
Sil Caggiano, a hazardous materials specialist, told WKBN “We basically nuked a town with chemicals so we could get a railroad open.”
Caggiano said, “There’s a lot of what-ifs, and we’re going to be looking at this thing 5, 10, 15, 20 years down the line and wondering, ‘Gee, cancer clusters could pop up, you know, well water could go bad.’”
Just days before the disaster, the CDC began to downplay the dangers of Vinyl Chloride, a gas used to produce a plastic known as polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
According to the National Cancer Institute, vinyl chloride is a carcinogen that has links to different kinds of cancers, including liver, brain, and lung cancers, as well as lymphoma and leukemia. Despite this, the CDC nor the EPA think that thousands of pounds leaking into the air is a problem for the residents who have been permitted to return to their homes.
After 17 years, the CDC apparently just came to the conclusion that it isn’t as harmful as they orginally thought, just weeks before the train derailment. The last profile for vinyl chloride was released in 2006 before updating it in January 2023.
The CDC ended up updating their website just days before the derailment, removing the sections “How can vinyl chloride affect children?” and “Has the federal government made recommendations to protect human health?”.
The description in the section on children initially said, “It has not been proven that vinyl chloride causes birth defects in humans, but studies in animals suggest that vinyl chloride might affect growth and development. Animal studies also suggest that infants and young children might be more susceptible than adults to vinyl chloride-induced cancer.”
The CDC replaced these sections by recommending that you limit your exposure to cigar and tobacco smoke because “Tobacco smoke contains low levels of vinyl chloride, so limiting your family’s exposure to cigarette or cigar smoke may help reduce their exposure to vinyl chloride,” the page writes.
Chemical engineering professor, Dr. Eric Beckham, informed NewsNation of the seriousness of these toxins. “It’s a suspected carcinogen. Long-term exposure is associated with cancers, particularly of the liver,” he said. “Short-term exposures, if they’re high enough, it’s just toxic – it can harm you and kill you.”