(CNN Spanish) –– In the United States, air quality is still being evaluated in the town of East Palestine, Ohio, after a train carrying toxic materials derailed on February 3. Since Wednesday, the population that was evacuated has been able to return to their homes, but the inspection in the houses continues.
What happened in Ohio?
Several cars of a train carrying volatile and toxic materials exploded on February 3, when the vehicle derailed in East Palestine, a small town of about 5,000 people in Ohio, near the Pennsylvania border,
Images of the incident show that the convoy of more than 100 carriages, operated by the Norfolk Southern company, was already in trouble. A video captured sparks under some of the train cars, about 35 kilometers before reaching the site where the derailment occurred. According to the authorities, the train had a mechanical problem with the axles.
What was the train carrying?
Of the hundred wagons carrying goods, about 20 carried hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride.
Is this a dangerous substance? According to the Ohio Department of Health, breathing high levels of vinyl chloride can cause unconsciousness or even death if the person is not in a ventilated area.
Vinyl chloride is a man-made chemical that is mainly used to make PVC, a type of plastic that is used for the construction of insulating boards, floors, windows or, for example, your credit card.
It is a good insulator, but highly flammable and has been associated with risks of cancer in the liver, brain, lungs, or blood. In fact, one of the problems is that it can contaminate water sources.
What are the authorities doing?
The Transportation Safety Agency is investigating the incident, while the Federal Environment Agency continues to assess air and water quality.
More than 290 homes, schools and the library in East Palestine had been inspected as of Sunday, with no traces of vinyl chloride detected.
However, some residents have experienced headaches and nausea. They also say they have seen dead fish and frogs in the area.
The way in which a reporter was removed by the police from an Ohio governor’s press conference on this matter sparked controversy and an investigation was opened into it.
In this context, there was no shortage of users on social networks who expressed the opinion that information about the case was to be hidden.
Added to this is the fact that last year Netflix filmed a film called “White Noise” in that region and that seems like a premonition. The production narrates how a family tries to escape from a toxic cloud after a train accident.
Ben Ratner, a resident of East Palestine, was one of the extras in the film. And now he has seen how fiction imitates reality since he and his family live right in the city where the derailment occurred.
“There are new things now that, I think, are the problem and are going to be the problem in the long term. They say there are 10 chemicals, there are actually 10 volatile chemicals, but there are almost 20 chemicals actually on the train. One of the most important that was lost was the petroleum lubricating oil tank. Each container holds 30,000 gallons, and there are two such containers that have yet to be found, and that’s 60,000 gallons of petroleum lubricating oil that is being spilled on our local soil,” Ratner said.
This father of four children, who also has a business in the town, believes that more tests should be done in the soil and in the water to assess the risks.