Members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) team deployed to East Palestine, Ohio in the wake of the train crash and release of dangerous chemicals in February fell ill, which is another indication that something is wrong.
The CDC confirmed to CNN on Thursday that seven members of a 15-person team visiting homes close to the derailment site reported symptoms like sore throats, headaches, coughing, and nausea. These are the same symptoms that locals claim they also experienced after the incident, which released more than one million pounds of hazardous chemicals into the air, soil, and water.
According to David Michaels, professor and chief of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from 2009 to 2017, the evidence strengthens the case that the symptoms experienced by East Palestine residents are real and linked to environmental exposures from the derailment and chemical fire, according to CNN. Michaels is not a part of the investigation.
East Palestine residents have reported health issues ever since a Norfolk Southern train derailed on February 3, forcing evacuations and releasing contaminants like the chemical that produces carcinogenic plastic, vinyl chloride. According to a study conducted by the Ohio Department of Health on March 3, 74 percent of respondents in the area reported headaches, 64 percent anxiety, 61 percent coughing, 58 percent weariness, and 52 percent said they felt pain, burning, or irritation.
The Columbiana, Ohio, staff at QUIC Kmed Urgent Care reported to WKBN in late February that they had observed numerous patients complaining of rashes, weakness, and a burning sensation when breathing. As the patients left their houses, these symptoms would frequently get worse and get better.
There are many possible causes for this, but if you leave your home and your symptoms go better, then you return and they worsen, Deb Weese of QUICKmed said at the time. “I’m not thinking that’s allergies or that it’s a cold,” she added. I believe it has to do with the substances you’re breathing in there.
According to CNN, the CDC staff member event took place on March 6. While canvassing nearby residents for information about their symptoms as part of the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, team members started to exhibit symptoms themselves and alerted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) safety officer who was on the scene at the time.
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The officer instructed the team’s seven ailing members to check back into their hotel room in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, that evening. The following day, they likewise operated from their bedrooms.
The majority of the team members’ symptoms subsided later that afternoon, and within 24 hours everyone was back to work collecting survey data. A CDC spokeswoman told CNN that no affected team members have reported persistent health issues.
The CDC event came after a second, comparable incident in February in which two EPA contractors reported to the site safety officer that they had symptoms after being exposed to strong scents. They felt better and went back to work that day after the police instructed them to leave the area for a while.
The derailment and the government’s and railroad’s response are still being questioned. The EPA’s internal inspector has opened an investigation into how the agency handled the matter in response to complaints from the public, particularly in light of the delays and ambiguity surrounding the dioxin testing.
According to The Hill, the state of Ohio and the Department of Justice have both filed charges against Norfolk Southern, and the community has also filed a class action lawsuit against the company.