Was dioxin released after the Ohio train derailment?

Was dioxin released after the Ohio train derailment?

After a disaster 38-train derailed There are some officers in East Palestine, Ohio escalating anxiety About a type of toxic substance that persists in the environment.

US Senators Sherrod Brown and J.D. Vance from Ohio sent a letter to the state’s Environmental Protection Agency expressing concern that some of the damaged railcar’s chemicals could release dioxin if intentionally burned for safety reasons. They joined residents of small Midwestern towns and environmentalists around the United States in calling on state and federal environmental agencies to test the soil near where the tanker truck tipped over.

On Thursday, the US Environmental Protection Agency said Order rail operator Norfolk Southern To begin the dioxin test. Testing so far by the EPA for “indicator chemicals” suggests that dioxin releases from the derailment are unlikely, the agency said.

See dioxins, their potential harm and whether they may be produced by burning vinyl chloride on Norfolk Southern trains:

Highly toxic, persistent compound

Dioxins refer to a group of toxic chemical compounds that can persist in the environment for long periods of time, World Health Organization.

They are formed through combustion and attach to dust particles, which is how they begin to circulate through an ecosystem.

Vanderbilt University toxicologist Frederick Gengerich said residents near the burn could be exposed to dioxins in the air that land on their skin or are inhaled into their lungs.

Skin exposure to high concentrations can cause what’s known as chloraquine — an acute skin inflammation, Gingerich says.

But the main way dioxin gets into the human body is not through direct burning. It is contaminated by eating meat, dairy, fish and shellfish. That pollution takes time.

“So it’s important for authorities to investigate this site now,” said Ted Shetler, a physician with a public health degree who directs the Science and Environmental Health Network, a coalition of environmental organizations. “Because it’s important to determine how much dioxin is in the soil and surrounding areas.”

Does burning vinyl chloride produce dioxins?

Linda Birnbaum, a leading dioxin researcher, toxicologist and former director of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, says that burning vinyl chloride produces dioxin. Other experts agree that accidents can make them.

Murray McBride, a soil and crop scientist at Cornell University, said the “extraordinary black plume” seen in eastern Palestine indicates that the combustion process left behind many complex carbon compounds.

McBride said it will be difficult to say for sure whether these compounds were released until tests are carried out at the train cars where they derailed.

Perhaps that’s why residents, politicians, environmentalists and public health professionals are all calling on state and federal environmental agencies to test derailment sites.

environment route

Some levels of dioxins are already in the environment — they can be created by certain industrial processes, or even people burning trash in their backyards, McBride said.

Once released, dioxins can remain in the soil for decades. They can contaminate plants including crops. They accumulate oil and other fats up the food chain.

In East Palestine, it’s possible that soot particles from the plume carried dioxins to nearby farms, where they could stick to the soil, McBride said.

“If you have grazing animals in the field, they will ingest some dioxin from the soil particles,” he said. “And so some of it gets into their body and then it gets deposited in fat tissue.”

Eventually, these dioxins can make their way into the food chain for human consumers. Bioaccumulation means that more dioxin can enter humans than is found in the environment after an accident.

Animals “don’t metabolize and get rid of dioxins like we do other chemicals,” Shetler said, and dioxins accumulate in the fat of animals that people eat, like fish, and worsen health effects over time.

Should residents of East Palestine be concerned?

Birnbaum and Shetler agree that residents have reason to be concerned about dioxin from the derailment.

Although they are present in small amounts from other sources, the large amounts of vinyl chloride burned from train cars can produce more than normal, McBride said.

“It may be an unusual concentration, my concern,” he said. “But again, I’m waiting to see if this soil is analyzed.”

It takes seven to 11 years for dioxin to break down in a human or animal body. And according to the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, dioxins have been linked to cancer, developmental and reproductive problems in children, and infertility in adults.

Still, Gengerich thought that other potential health risks from the derailment — such as concerns that exposure to vinyl chloride could cause cancer — outweighed potential dioxin: “I wouldn’t put it at the top of my list,” he said.

Dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health. Maureen Lichtveld agreed that vinyl chloride should be of greater public concern than dioxin and said that the mental health of a community with catastrophic derailment should also be of greater public concern. Health is a priority over dioxin exposure.

As with many environmental exposures, it would be difficult to prove that any dioxin came from the derailment. “I think it would be virtually impossible to attribute the presence of dioxin to this particular burn,” he said.

But most experts thought it was important to test the soil for dioxin — even though that process could be difficult and expensive.

“The conditions are absolutely right for dioxin formation,” Shetler said. “From a public health perspective it’s very important to determine and reassure the community.”


Associated Press reporter John Siwer in Toledo, Ohio contributed.


Follow Maddie Burakoff and Drew Costley on Twitter: @maddyburakoff And @drucoastly.


The Associated Press receives support from the Science and Educational Media Group at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Health and Science. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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