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It’s been more than two weeks since a Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, spilling chemicals onto the ground and into waterways, and releasing them into the air as damaged cars burst into flames. A few days later, on Feb. 6, officials intentionally released vinyl chloride gas from five train cars and burned it in order to avoid an explosion.
Many questions have since been raised about toxic exposures sustained by humans and wildlife — not just in East Palestine, with its 4,700 residents, but along the Ohio River and farther north. The New Republic reported that residents endured burning and itchy eyes, sore throat, rash, and migraines in the aftermath of the train derailment. Around 3,500 fish have reportedly died in local waterways, and West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced that chemicals had been found in the Ohio River in the northern panhandle of the state.
Here’s a look at what we know so far about the potential hazards of air, soil, and water contamination stemming from the train derailment, and what experts say about the chemicals’ possible long-term risks to health.