Ohio Train Derailment Released Benzene, Other Hazardous Chemicals

Ohio Train Derailment Health Risks

Nearly a year after the fiery crash of a train carrying deadly chemicals, residents in and around East Palestine, Ohio, face uncertainty about a wide range of potentially serious health risks from exposure to chemicals including vinyl chloride and benzene.

Residents are unsure whether to stay and risk exposure to carcinogens that have blanketed the area and killed thousands of fish and other species. The February 2023 crash “changed East Palestine forever,” said Fire Chief Keith A. Drabeck.

According to investigators, Norfolk Southern workers failed to detect a faulty wheel bearing that overheated, causing the train to derail.

The Norfolk Southern Railway Company reported that 38 rail cars derailed. Twelve of the cars were damaged by fire, and half of the 20 cars carrying hazardous materials derailed. Three days after the crash, authorities evacuated residents and conducted a controlled burn to get rid of chemicals containing vinyl chloride to avoid an explosion.

What is vinyl chloride?

Vinyl chloride is a colorless, flammable gas used to make Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) plastic. The National Cancer Institute says it is a known carcinogen, and it is linked to hepatic angiosarcoma, a rare and “exceptionally deadly” form of liver cancer. It is also linked to brain and lung cancers and lymphoma and leukemia.

Five train cars in the derailment were carrying this chemical, which heightened concern that the controlled burn would release toxic gas into the air.

How Dangerous Is Benzene?

Benzene is a colorless, flammable liquid that has a sweet odor. It is among the top 20 chemicals used in the United States and is an ingredient in plastics, resins, rubber and pesticides. The health risks associated with benzene are well-known:

  • The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) — the governing body on worker safety — categorizes benzene as a carcinogen and states that such carcinogens have no safe level of exposure.
  • The American Cancer Society says, “Exposure to benzene has been linked with a higher risk of cancer, particularly leukemia and other cancers of blood cells.” Also, “long-term exposure to benzene mainly harms the bone marrow, the soft, inner parts of bones where new blood cells are made. There is also some evidence that long-term exposure to benzene might harm reproductive organs.”
  • The New Jersey Department of Health gives benzene its highest hazard ranking, stating that not only does benzene increase the risk of cancer, but it can also cause genetic mutations and should be handled “with extreme caution.” The department further states that “benzene is a carcinogen in humans. It has been shown to cause leukemia. Many scientists believe there is no safe level of exposure to a carcinogen.”

In addition to its widespread use as a component in manufacturing, individuals are frequently and unknowingly exposed to cosmetic and household products that have been contaminated with benzene, including sunscreens, shampoos, deodorants and more.

Recent product recalls for benzene contamination include Banana Boat Hair & Scalp Sunscreen Spray SPF 30 (February 2023); aerosol antiperspirants Brut and Sure (February 2022); Pantene and Herbal Essence dry shampoo and hair conditioner sprays (December 2021); Old Spice and Secret spray antiperspirants (November 2021); Tinactin and Lotrimin antifungal sprays and Coppertone sunscreen sprays (October 2021); and Neutrogena and Aveeno spray sunscreens (July 2021).

Additional Hazardous Chemicals Were Aboard 

Butyl acrylate is a combustible liquid that can cause problems in the eyes, skin and upper respiratory system when inhaled, ingested or placed in contact with skin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Immediate medical attention is needed if it is swallowed. It is used in manufacturing plastics and resins.

Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether is a colorless liquid that can harm eyes, skin, kidneys and blood, the CDC reports. It is used as a solvent in paint strippers, paint thinners, and household cleaners.

Ethylhexyl acrylate is a “severe skin and eye irritant,” according to the National Library of Medicine. “Inhalation may cause drowsiness and convulsions,” and it is “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” It is used in adhesives, resins and in the finishing of textiles.

Isobutylene is a colorless gas used to make rubber tires and inner tubes. The National Library of Medicine says that “inhalation of moderate concentrations causes dizziness, drowsiness and unconsciousness. Contact with eyes or skin may cause irritation; the liquid may cause frostbite.”

How We Help Victims of Benzene Exposure 

Seek justice with the help of our experienced attorneys. Our Dallas, Texas, benzene law firm has battled corporate giants on behalf of individuals like you for 20 years, aggressively fighting to hold them responsible for dangerous chemicals and the personal injuries and cancers they cause. If you have suffered a catastrophic injury caused by dangerous products, we can help.

What are my chances?

That’s the first question everyone asks. The truth is it’s impossible to know. But we can tell you this. Waters Kraus Paul & Siegel has what it takes to fight against big corporate interests and win. That’s why we’ve taken more mesothelioma trials to verdict than any other firm. And that’s why we’ve recovered more than $1.3 billion for clients like you. Do you think you have a case? Contact us now to speak with an attorney.

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