East Palestine Train Derailment
To our friends and family in East Palestine Ohio, we are sorry for the environmental impact to your community. To the indoor air quality community, remember, more often than not the outside air becomes our inside air so we should be aware of the chemicals in our environment. The Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA) is here to provide you with informed knowledge and resources to guide you through this event. Below is a summary of the event with a focus on the chemicals of concern and links to supporting resources.
On the evening of February 3rd, thirty eight (38) railcars reportedly derailed in East Palestine Ohio. Twenty (20) of the cars contained hazardous materials, and eleven (11) of these 20 cars were part of the derailment.
The chemicals of concern include Vinyl Chloride (SDS-vinyl chloride) and Butyl Acrylate (SDS-butyl acrylate). These documents show that both Vinyl Chloride and Butyl Acrylate are heavier than air. This tells us that as the vapors leave the damaged railcars, they will initially drift to low lying areas and the direction of flow may be dependent on wind speed and direction. Both are colorless (cannot be easily seen with the naked eye), but both chemicals do have distinct odors. Lastly, vinyl chloride can dissolve in water which can make clean-up and treatment difficult.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reports that Vinyl Chloride is a Group 1 – Carcinogenic to Humans. The Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has provided a quick summary of the most asked questions:
The CDC has also prepared a small summary of information related to Butyl Acrylate.
To see up-to-date information on what actions the US EPA are undertaking and the daily air monitoring data that they are collecting, you can follow this link and search East Palestine, Region V. Note, you may have to create a login ID to get this data. EPA (EPA On scene coordinator webEOC),
Before the EPA allows a person to return to their evacuated home, the air in the home is tested for Vinyl Chloride and Hydrogen Chloride. How can you test for these compounds? Two methods are: 1. Collect an air sample and have it sent to a certified laboratory, or 2. Perform real-time readings with colorimetric tubes (e.g. Drager or Sensidyne).
We hope this helps, reach out to your IAQA if you have more questions. The IAQA website provides a helpful search tool called Find A Pro that will identify indoor air quality consultants in your area or beyond.