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Everything I’ve Learned about the Train Derailment in Ohio as of 2/27 

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCD chapter.

On February 3, 2023, thirty-eight trains derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. Out of those trains, twenty were carrying hazardous chemicals (EPA, 2023). In response, the Environmental Protection Program investigated the site within twenty-four hours. To avoid a potential explosion, vinyl chloride was released in a “controlled” manner from the trains (Findell, 2023). While public water systems and health agencies have found no sign of water or air quality issues (EPA, 2023), the residents of East Palestine, Ohio, and the general public are concerned for their safety because of the spread of dangerous chemicals that professionals take great precautions to avoid direct contact with. The following emphasizes what I learned about the chemicals in the trains, health/environmental risks, and the public’s concerns. 

Identified Chemicals & Health Risks (Williams, 2023): 

  • Vinyl Chloride: A gas used in the production of plastic that can cause liver damage, increase the risk of liver cancer, and cause unconsciousness and confusion. It is also a pollutant that is harmful to plants and animals. 
  • Ethylene Glycol Monobutyl ether: A chemical used to make printing inks and degreasers. Long-term inhalation can cause blood disorders and is associated with kidney damage. 
  •  Butyl Acrylate: used in making adhesives, textiles, etc. Inhaling its vapor or coming in physical contact with it can cause respiratory problems and skin irritation. 
  • Ethylhexyl acrylate: like Butyl Acrylate in regard to its effects, but it can also cause allergic reactions, headaches, dizziness, and nausea.  
  • Isobutylene: a flammable gas used to produce chemicals like butyl rubber and can be found in gasoline. Extended exposure to this chemical can cause drowsiness, skin irritation, and respiratory issues.


Many thought that those within proximity of the crash were the only ones at risk, but the public soon realized that this disaster could spread past Ohio because of the danger of evaporating chemicals, and the contamination of soil, water, and food sources that the nation relies on Ohio for. One resident one hundred miles from the derailment site shared their horror at realizing that the “six gallons of water she has recently purchased” were bottled three days after the derailment (Findell, 2023). While the EPA Administrator Michael Regan attempted to ease public concern by drinking water from East Palestine, residents could not shake off the unease they felt when they noticed a film over the surface of streams and (about) 3,500 fish dead (Hauser, 2023).  Although air and water monitoring may show contamination levels below concern, according to Senator J.D. Vance, “’ it was a complex environmental disaster’ that would require long-term study, with questions about the braking system, the durability of the repair parts, and the Transportation Department’s regulatory approach to the rail system” (Hauser, 2023). 

While the EPA had stopped shipment to review the company’s plans to dispose of the chemicals, the EPA approved resuming the transportation of contaminated liquid and soil out of Ohio (Salahieh & Moshtaghian, 2023). Despite the relocation, the contaminated soil and water are still cause for concern because chemicals can spread far, causing fear that it spread to food resources that are already out for the public’s consumption. 

 This train derailment has brought awareness to the frequency of derailments and their implications on public and environmental well-being. While the Environmental Prevention Agency is working towards reassuring the public and reversing/solving the effects of this derailment that has taken the public by storm, public awareness of such issues and actively working towards changing the train system is essential in preventing environmental/health risks and easing public fear. 

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Celina Timmerman / Her Campus


Environmental Protection Agency. (2023, February 26). East Palestine, Ohio Train Derailment Emergency Response. EPA. Retrieved n.d., from https://www.epa.gov/oh/east-palestine-ohio-train-derailment-emergency-response 

Findell, E. (2023, February 26). Ohio train derailment contamination fears spread beyond East Palestine. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved n.d., from https://www.wsj.com/articles/ohio-train-derailment-contamination-fears-spread-beyond-east-palestine-fc634e6?siteid=yhoof2&yptr=yahoo

Hauser, C. (2023, February 27). After the Ohio Train Derailment: Evacuations, Toxic Chemicals and Water Worries, EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/oh/east-palestine-ohio-train-derailment-emergency-response  

Salahieh, N., & Moshtaghian, A. (2023, February 27). Shipments of contaminated waste to resume from Ohio train derailment site. CNN. Retrieved n.d., from https://www.cnn.com/2023/02/26/us/ohio-train-derailment-east-palestine-sunday/index.html.

Williams, A. (2023, February 20). Everything you need to know about the toxic chemicals aboard the derailed train in Ohio. FOX 4 News. Retrieved n.d., from https://www.fox4news.com/news/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-toxic-chemicals-aboard-the-derailed-train-in-ohio.

Lorena is a third-year English and Psychology double major at UCD. She enjoys reading, writing, traveling, and going to concerts. After graduation, Lorena would like to become a journalist or educator.