Congressional Lawmakers Want Commitment to Health in East Palestine

Aerial photo of East Palestine derailment site taken 02-24-23. Twelve rail cars remain on site. (Courtesy Office of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine)

(The Center Square) – U.S. Sens. from Ohio and Pennsylvania want the National Institutes of Environmental Health to help in the response to health concerns from residents impacted by the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern train derailment.

The four senators – J.D. Vance, R-Ohio; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania; and John Fetterman, D-Pennsylvania – said in a letter to the agency they continue to hear concerns from residents along the Ohio-Pennsylvania border about exposure to hazardous chemicals and the potential health effects.

“In our conversations with residents of East Palestine and its surrounding communities in Ohio and Pennsylvania, we repeatedly hear concerns about the potential impact of both acute and chronic exposure to the hazardous chemicals released in the train derailment,” the letter reads.

The group wants a comprehensive investigation relating to exposure and potential health impacts, and it wants the research institute to help.

“Additionally, in order to provide a robust review of the community concerns, exposures, and health implications, we request that NIEHS engage with the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine as quickly as possible to evaluate the best approach to engage with affected communities and integrate their feedback into scientific opportunities to understand the short-term and long-term human health impacts of this crisis,” the letter reads.

Both Brown and Vance previously asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to commit to long-term medical testing for the impacted communities.

The Ohio EPA announced Monday about 10 million gallons of liquid wastewater have been removed from East Palestine. Currently there is a pile of about 20,800 tons of soil waiting to be removed, and 14,700 have already been removed.

The Ohio Department of Health, along with federal agencies have been surveying residents and first responders about health symptoms related to the derailment, Gov. Mike DeWine said Monday in a news release.

Of the 212 respondents, the top five symptoms included stuffy nose and sinus congestion, runny nose, increased congestion, burning nose or throat and hoarseness.

As previously reported by The Center Square, the National Transportation Safety Board said high temperatures led to failure of the trains wheel bearings, causing the Reb. 3 derailment and the release of more than 1 million gallons of hazardous materials into the air, water and ground.

There were no injuries from the crash.

In mid-March, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost sued Norfolk Southern, citing reckless endangerment for the crash. The 58-count civil lawsuit filed in federal court alleges the rail company endangered the health of area residents and the state’s natural resources.

— J.D. Davidson

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