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Why a Public Health Emergency Wasn't Declared Following Norfolk Southern's Ohio Train Derailment

The EPA didn't use the designation due to lack of data about chemical exposure

The aftermath of last year's fiery train derailment in eastern Ohio doesn’t qualify as a public health emergency because widespread health problems and ongoing chemical exposures haven’t been documented, federal officials said.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) never approved that designation after the February 2023 Norfolk Southern derailment even though the disaster forced the evacuation of half the town of East Palestine and generated many fears about potential long-term health consequences of the chemicals that spilled and burned. The contamination concerns were exacerbated by the decision to blow open five tank cars filled with vinyl chloride and burn that toxic chemical three days after the derailment.

The topic of a public health emergency came up in emails obtained by the Government Accountability Project watchdog group through a public records request. But EPA Response Coordinator Mark Durno said the label, which the agency has only used once before in Libby, Montana — where hundreds of people died and thousands were sickened from widespread asbestos exposure — doesn’t fit East Palestine even though some residents still complain about respiratory problems and unexplained rashes. Officials also believed the agency had enough authority to respond to the derailment without declaring an emergency.

Please select this link to read the complete article from Fast Company.

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