On the morning of February 3rd, 2023, the people of East Palestine, Ohio saw smoke rising from the train tracks running through town. The Norfolk Southern freight train had derailed from the tracks, crashing 38 train cars. Fire rose from the cars and they started to burn, releasing dangerous petrochemicals into the air, mostly vinyl chloride which is highly carcinogenic. In the weeks since, residents of East Palestine and nearby communities have reported alarming symptoms following the derailment.
Sierra Lynn, a resident of neighboring town Leetonia, Ohio, shared how she felt the affects of the smoke over 10 miles away. “I have asthma, and when I went outside the night of the release, I felt it immediately. You could smell chlorine in the air. I was instantly coughing,” Lynn said. Other locals have been experiencing rashes, migraines, sore throats, burning eyes, and dizziness. (Read the full story at Earth.org)
There is an ongoing Senate hearing on this disaster, and many unanswered questions about the long-term health affects that locals may experience. But one this is clear: railroad corporations like Norfolk Southern have long prioritized their bottom line over the safety of their employees and local communities. Norfolk Southern itself has lobbied heavily against safety regulations, adopted precision scheduling practices that cut costs but are less safe, and spread misinformation to cover up the dangers of their practices.