More residents of East Palestine, Ohio, have complained about unusual health problems in the wake of this month’s train derailment that prompted the release of toxic chemicals into the air, ground, and water.
Wade Lovett, a resident, told the New York Post Saturday that he’s had issues with his breathing since the derailment and controlled burn of a range of hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride.
“Doctors say I definitely have the chemicals in me but there’s no one in town who can run the toxicological tests to find out which ones they are,” Lovett told the Post, which published a video of his interview. According to the footage, Lovett’s voice appeared to sound much higher than normal.
“My voice sounds like Mickey Mouse. My normal voice is low. It’s hard to breathe, especially at night,” he said. “My chest hurts so much at night I feel like I’m drowning. I cough up phlegm a lot. I lost my job because the doctor won’t release me to go to work.”
Shelby Walker, who lives near the derailment site, said she’s suffered health issues as well. Her family members have also experienced a variety of symptoms, she told the paper.
“The bad smell comes and goes,” Walker said. “Yesterday was the first day in probably three or four days that I could smell anything. I lost my smell and my sense of taste. I had an eye infection in both eyes. I was having respiratory issues like I was just out of breath. Other members of my family have had eye infections and strep throat.”
“The cleanup crew drives past us at night and won’t even look at us. It’s like we don’t exist. No one has reached out to us or told us anything,” she added.
Residents of East Palestine were told they could return to their homes on Feb. 8 after the controlled release and burning of vinyl chloride, which emitted a massive, ominous cloud into the sky. Since then, there have been reports from locals of health issues, while others have reported thousands of animal die-offs in the area.
“When we went back on the 10th, that’s when we decided that we couldn’t raise our kids here,” local Amanda Greathouse told CNN this month, adding that she noticed a smell that “reminded me of hair perming solution.”
Upon returning home earlier this month, within 30 minutes, she developed nausea and a rash. “When we left, I had a rash on my skin on my arm, and my eyes were burning for a few days after that,” added Greathouse, who noted that she has two preschool-age children.
“The chemical smell was so strong that it made me nauseous,” Greathouse said. “I just wanted to quickly pick up what I needed and leave. I only took a few pieces of clothes because even the clothes smelled like chemicals, and I’m afraid to put them on my kids.”
Katlyn Schwarzwaelder, said she and her boyfriend, Chris, both suffered similar health issues.
A clean-up crew works alongside a stream as clean-up efforts continue in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 16, 2023. On Feb. 3, a Norfolk Southern Railways train carrying toxic chemicals derailed causing an environmental disaster. (Michael Swensen/Getty Images)
“I undressed to get into the shower, and I had a rash all over the side of my face on both sides and all over my chest,” Schwarzwaelder said, adding: “My boyfriend Chris also had a rash on his left side, and I mean to this moment, right now, I have just a really low-grade constant headache.”
It comes as officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) arrived in East Palestine on Saturday to look into potential health risks stemming from the toxic train derailment, according to a White House fact sheet. Those CDC officials were joined by both Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials.
A day before that, Texas A&M and Carnegie Mellon researchers said Friday that nine out of about 50 chemicals that the Environmental Protection Agency said were present on the Norfolk Southern-operated train are at higher concentrations than “normal,” saying that “if these levels continue, they may be of health concern.”
Chemicals that were seen at higher-than-normal levels include vinyl chloride, benzene, and naphthalene, according to their analysis. But the researchers, in particular, flagged acrolein—which has been used in chemical warfare weapons—as one of particular concern.
On Feb. 24, an EPA spokesperson told The Epoch Times that its air monitoring data shows that “exposure levels of the 79 monitored chemicals are below levels of concern.” The analyses published Friday “assume a lifetime of exposure, which is constant exposure over approximately 70 years,” said the agency spokesperson, adding that the EPA doesn’t anticipate such chemicals to remain elevated “for anywhere that long.”