Union Rep: East Palestine Clean-Up Workers Getting Sick

Concerns about the short- and long-term impacts of the East Palestine, Ohio, derailment disaster continue to mount, as immediate health issues are being reported among local residents and rail workers involved in the cleanup operation.

A union leader has warned that around 40 workers who were ordered to clean up the wreckage were not given proper personal protective equipment (PPE), including respirators, protective clothing, and eye protection. As a result, many have reported suffering from migraines and nausea in the days following the derailment.

The lack of worker protection has been attributed to Norfolk Southern’s “cost-cutting business model.” In a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Jonathan Long, a union representative for the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said that Norfolk Southern “is dangerous to America.”

Additionally, hundreds of dead animals are being discovered in Ohio’s parks after the derailment and chemical spill. Local reports indicate that forestry workers have found hundreds of dead animals. The BBC has estimated that nearly 45,000 animals have died due to the disaster. The animals are said to have been contaminated by toxic chemicals released during the derailment, including vinyl chloride.

Norfolk Southern has defended its handling of the cleanup effort, stating that it was “on-scene immediately after the derailment and coordinated our response with hazardous material professionals who were on site continuously to ensure the work area was safe to enter and the required PPE was utilized”.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R), and the Biden administration have assured residents that measures have been taken to protect them from the toxic chemical spill and controlled burn of vinyl chloride.

However, reports from witnesses on the ground raise questions about the accuracy of these assurances. One report claims that DeWine attempted to block scientists from entering state parks to take soil samples and only used his hand-picked scientists to “give him the results he wants.” The source of the report also claimed that tests on animal specimens have revealed “toxicities that are off the charts.”

The impact of the toxic spill on the environment and local communities is likely to be felt for years to come. East Palestine has been hit hard by the disaster, which has caused widespread concern about the safety of hazardous material transportation and the effectiveness of measures taken to protect workers and residents from toxic exposure.