On Feb. 3, 2023, a Norfolk Southern train carrying significant amounts of hazardous chemicals and other materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. Thirty-eight train cars fell off the track and caught fire, sending massive smoke plumes across the surrounding area.
The Norfolk Southern derailment has had multiple adverse effects on East Palestine residents and the environment. Many of the chemicals are toxic, and exposure can cause severe health problems. Professionals in the hazardous shipping industry must learn from the incident and prevent similar disasters from occurring again. By committing to thorough education materials, professionals gain the expertise they need to move hazmat safely.
What Chemicals Leaked in the Ohio Train Derailment?
The Environmental Protection Agency found five toxic chemicals at the crash site.
- Vinyl chloride: This colorless gas is highly flammable, causing fears of an explosion near the site. Manufacturers use the chemical in plastic wires, pipes and various packaging types. Contact with vinyl chloride links to liver cancer, lung cancer, lymphoma and leukemia, and short-term exposure causes eye irritation, dizziness, nausea and other unpleasant side effects. If vinyl chloride burns, it can form toxic byproducts like hydrogen chloride.
- Butyl acrylate: The spill emitted large quantities of butyl acrylate, a clear liquid used in paints and solvents. Exposure irritates your eyes, nose and mouth, and causes nausea and potential allergic reactions. It posed a significant risk to nearby residents because of possible water contamination. The CDC and EPA are monitoring the area to ensure drinking water remains safe for citizens.
- Ethylene glycol: Ethylene glycol is a solvent found in paints and cleaning products. It’s highly flammable and toxic, making it dangerous for human contact. It can also cause nausea and skin irritation.
- Isobutylene: This gas is in many types of adhesives. It has a distinctive, sweet odor that alerts people to its presence. Isobutylene contact can have many adverse side effects, including frostbite, skin irritation, dizziness and fatigue.
- Ethyl hexyl acrylate: Ethyl hexyl acrylate is a colorless liquid used in paints and plastic. Exposure can induce respiratory irritation, sore throat, vomiting and nausea.
The Norfolk Southern derailment chemicals were present in the nearby air, soil and water, placing East Palestine residents at risk.
How Has the Toxic Train Wreck Affected East Palestine, Ohio?
These chemicals can have detrimental effects on the environment and the human body. Residents of East Palestine reported various adverse impacts after the crash, including:
- Thick plumes of smoke in the air above homes and businesses
- Thousands of deceased fish in the town creeks
- Sudden deaths of chicken and other livestock
- Headaches, nausea and respiratory problems
- Fears about the safety of local water sources
The EPA and CDC have tested local areas for chemical content. They reported nearby wells and other water sources as safe to use. However, residents still voiced concerns about unusual symptoms that weren’t present before the crash.
Ohio Train Derailment Cleanup
Cleaning a spill of this size requires significant preparation and effort. The EPA required Norfolk Southern, the train company responsible for the wreck, to pay for the damages. The company is also facing various lawsuits and charges for the disaster. If they fail to cover the costs, they will experience significant financial consequences.
As of March 2023, Norfolk Southern had removed about 15,000 pounds of contaminated soil and 1.5 million gallons of tainted water. They lifted the train tracks to reach the contaminated areas underneath.
The EPA arrived at the crash scene hours after it occurred and immediately started testing air and water quality. They also evaluated the indoor conditions of many local homes and buildings. They claim the air and water are safe but encourage residents to drink bottled water until they are more comfortable.
How Do You Transport Hazardous Materials?
Shipping professionals must take proper precautions when handling hazardous products. To prevent another disaster like the Ohio train derailment, workers must follow all federal and departmental guidelines for transport.
- Classify hazardous materials: Identifying the components is the first step for all hazardous material shipments. You should follow classification rules and list the object’s ID number, hazard class, packing group and other crucial features. Then, use the classification to find the proper packaging strategy. Professionals use the Hazardous Materials Table to find the corresponding packing material and necessary procedures. The correct identification measures inform the transport of the internal contents. They can proceed with the safest moving strategies.
- Abide by proper packaging procedures: Package hazmat according to federal regulations. Manufacturers might provide extra packaging steps, and you should follow those to the letter. Pay attention to closing procedures because deviations can increase opportunities for spills.
- Contain spills immediately: If spills occur, you must respond quickly. Evaluate the present risk and alert nearby officials. If the spill is moderate enough that you can contain it, look for the source right away. Stop the material from spreading further — you might need to move a container, plug a hole or halt a leak. Only address the leakage if you have the appropriate protective equipment and know the situation isn’t too dangerous.
In addition, other actions can prevent derailments and minimize fallouts, including:
- Enhancing tank car designs for tighter security.
- Training more first responders who can assist with cleanup and containment.
- Developing response plans that alert the community effectively.
Enroll in Hazmat School Courses Today
It’s essential to follow the correct shipping methods for hazardous materials. These guidelines keep residents and the environment safe from toxic exposure. Hazmat industry employees must receive thorough training for shipping procedures to prevent future incidents like the Norfolk Southern derailment.
Hazmat School provides high-quality learning and experiences for professionals in the hazmat industry. Our wide selection of training courses can help you gain crucial certifications. All courses meet Department of Transportation standards. You can complete coursework at your preferred pace, allowing you to earn certifications and reach goals on a timeline that meets your needs best.
Choose from courses like these.
- DOT Shipping Training Course: If you ship or store hazardous materials in the United States, you must take a DOT training course. These course objectives follow DOT guidelines and help workers maintain optimal safety during transport.
- DOT IATA IMDG Multimodal Hazmat Shipping: This course prepares professionals to ship by land, sea and air. Meeting these objectives allows shipping workers to maintain safety during international and overseas shipments.
To get started, register for a course today.