Officials say air quality returns to normal following East Palestine train derailment
February 17, 2023
In the week since officials conducted what they called a "controlled release" of vinyl chloride from five derailed train cars in East Palestine near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, concern has grown among some over the quality of the air in and around the village of nearly 5,000 people (Source: “Is the air in East Palestine safe to breathe? Here's what experts and officials say,” Columbus Dispatch, Feb. 14).
Some East Palestine residents who have since returned to their homes after being evacuated have reported experiencing headaches and nausea. Others say the air has a foul odor to it.
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Director of the Ohio Department of Health, said during a news conference Tuesday that most of the chemicals on the Norfolk Southern train that derailed Feb. 3 are volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are emitted during everyday activities like pumping gas, burning wood or natural gas, he said.
Low levels of VOCs can be smelled and sometimes cause headaches and irritation, said Vanderhoff, who noted that most people can be around VOCs at low levels without feeling ill. High levels can result in longer-term health effects, he said.
Vanderhoff said recent testing shows the air in East Palestine was just like it was prior to the train derailment.
Last month, HPIO released a new Health Value Dashboard fact sheet titled “A closer look at outdoor air pollution and health.” The fact sheet focuses on the importance of clean air and provides additional information on the outdoor air quality metric in the Dashboard.