Jumping the Gun in East Palestine
The explosion of a train carrying toxic chemicals in East Palestine, Ohio highlights the dangers of governments rushing to return to an air of normalcy after such a disaster without evaluating the full impacts of chemical exposure.
To recap: a train carrying hazardous materials like vinyl chloride and butyl acrylate derailed in East Palestine on February 3. This led to a fire that burned chemicals in derailed train cars. Authorities also initiated a controlled burn to prevent an explosion of chemicals on a rail car that did not derail.
On February 8, state officials and the U.S. EPA told evacuated residents it was safe to return home.
Here is the problem. EPA has conducted limited testing in limited locations for traces of the chemicals on the train and not for new compounds created by the fire or for the PFAS and other chemicals used to put out the fire. Residents have rightly complained about the lack of transparency by state and federal officials.
We will continue to watch this situation closely. Our experience representing whistleblowers after 9/11 and after oil spills and our work trying to strengthen government responses to industrial explosions, leaks, and other accidents illustrates why residents are right to be concerned.
Government agencies must do more to ascertain and minimize the health risks to those who live in East Palestine and not jump the gun declaring the area safe. That is a basic function of government that we are prepared to defend. We appreciate your support in this effort.
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