The toxic soup of chemicals unleashed following an Ohio train crash include two known carcinogens and other substances which can cause convulsions and vomiting.
Railroad company Norfolk Southern let the chemicals into the atmosphere in a controlled fashion days later which they said was necessary to avert a possible explosion.
Originally, Norfolk Southern released a fact sheet which listed the chemicals on the board the train as vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, benzene residue and other combustible liquids.
It then emerged that three more dangerous chemicals — glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate and isobutylene — were on board the train.
There have since been reports of people falling sick and animals dying in the weeks since the February 3 derailment.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine yesterday slammed the state’s Public Utilities Commission after it claimed the toxic train that derailed in Ohio was not considered hazardous, despite the accident devastating the local area.
The chemicals on the board the train were vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, benzene residue, glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate and isobutylene
The plume of smoke seen above East Palestine following the February 3 train crash
A giant plume of smoke from the aftermath of the incident could be seen from miles away
Vinyl chloride — a carcinogen that can shut down the central nervous system
Vinyl chloride is a colorless manmade gas which burns easily.
It is mainly used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a hard plastic resin used to make plastic products including pipes and wire and cable exteriors.
PVC is not known or suspected to cause cancer, but vinyl chloride is associated with a higher risk of a rare form of liver cancer (hepatic angiosarcoma), as well as primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma), brain and lung cancers, lymphoma and leukemia.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) lists vinyl chloride as carcinogenic to humans, which means it has sufficient scientific proof that it causes cancer in people.
People who are exposed to vinyl chloride over many years are likely to get liver damage and cancer.
The most likely way it will enter someone’s body is by breathing it in, but it can also be ingested via contaminated drinking water.
The chemical travels through the body in the blood and the liver will break it down into other chemicals, some of which can cause more damage than the vinyl chloride itself.
The gas has a faint sweet odor, but the threshold at which it will smell is ‘too high to provide an adequate warning of hazardous concentrations’, according to the CDC.
This means people can be overexposed to it without being aware it is even in the air.
A five minute exposure to over twice the level it can be smelt at can cause dizziness.
At levels five times that high, exposure can cause drowsiness, a loss of coordination, issues with sight and hearing, disorientation, nausea, headache, and burning or tingling in the arms and legs.
Sustained exposure can lead to death, due to the central nervous system shutting down.
The gas is also found in tobacco smoke.
When burned or heated to a high enough temperature, the gas turns into hydrogen chloride, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and traces of phosgene.
Benzene — a deadly industrial chemical
Two of the derailed cars reportedly contained benzene residue, a colorless or pale yellow liquid with a sweet scent.
It burns easily and evaporates into air rapidly.
The substance is formed naturally from volcanoes and forest fires, and is a natural part of crude oil, gasoline and cigarette smoke.
It is also used to make plastics, nylon and some types of lubricants, drugs and pesticides.
Minutes to hours after breathing benzene in, it can bring on symptoms including drowsiness, dizziness, increased or irregular heartbeat, headaches, confusion, unconsciousness and even death at very high levels.
According to the CDC, eating food or drinking water that is contaminated with benzene can lead to sleepiness, vomiting and convulsions within minutes to several hours. It can also cause death at very high levels.
Over 3,500 fish have died in the immediate area due to what residents believe is toxic runoff
The toxic train derailed in a fiery crash on February 3, leading authorities to evacuate the surrounding East Palestine, Ohio, area
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Tuesday they have carried out ‘robust air-quality testing’ in and around the area of the crash, and confirmed they have ‘not detected any levels’ of chemicals that could cause harm.
The authority added they had screened 396 homes for toxicity, with none showing detections of vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride.
The extent of damage the substances can do depends on a range of factors including the amount you are exposed to and the length of time, as well as factors such as age, diet, lifestyle, and current health state.
Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether — a liquid used in paint stripper that can cause vomiting
Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, also known as 2-butoxyethanol, is a clear liquid used in paint strippers and thinners and household cleaning products.
The gas may be released into the air as paints and cleaners dry.
When the substance reaches 68 F, it can evaporate and contaminate the air.
The most common route of exposure is through breathing in the vapor or touching the liquid.
If the liquid touches the skin, it can cause it to dry out and crack.
The vapor can cause irritation to the nose and eyes, headaches, a metallic taste and vomiting.
Landfills and hazardous waste sites can release the substance to water that is under the ground, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Ethylhexyl acrylate — a substance in glue that causes drowsiness
Ethylhexyl acrylate is a see through liquid, used by manufacturers to make paint, glue, leather finishes and coatings for paper.
If inhaled, over exposure to the chemical can lead to irritation and drowsiness, and throat and mouth irritation when swallowed, as per chemical distribution company ThermoFisher Scientific.
The substance has been confused with ethyl acrylate, which is thought to cause cancer.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) said there is insufficient evidence in humans that ethylhexyl acrylate is a carcinogen, and only limited evidence in experimental animals.
Butyl acrylate — a chemical that can cause skin to ooze
Butyl acrylate is another colorless liquid used to make paints, coatings, sealant and glues. Unlike vinyl chloride, it has a strong, fruity odor.
According to the CDC, severe exposure to its vapor can lead to irritation in the eyes, including redness and tearing up, a scratchy throat, issues with breathing and redness and cracking of the skin.
Continued exposure over months and years can cause the skin to itch and affected areas to ooze. Behavioral and nervous system effects are also possible.
Isobutylene — a sweet-smelling gas that can kill at high concentrations
Like vinyl chloride, isobutylene is a transparent gas. It has a sweet, gasoline-like odor and is used to produce gasoline for planes as well as food packaging, chewing gum and tires.
When breathed in, isobutylene can irritate the eyes, nose and throat and cause dizziness and drowsiness. At high levels, the substance can cause coma and death, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.
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