After a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, resulted in toxic chemicals spilling into land, air and water, questions abound over the long-term environmental and health impacts.
Murray McBride is a soil and crop scientist who studies the behavior of soil and water contaminants. McBride says vinyl chloride is “highly mobile in soils and water” and advises farmers and residents to test wells and soils where crops are grown.
“Several industrial chemicals, including vinyl chloride and butyl acrylate, were released in large quantities into the air, surface waters and soils at the site of the derailment. The vinyl chloride release from the rail cars is of special concern because of the particularly high toxicity of this chemical to humans.
“It is unclear how much of this volatile chemical escaped into the air or burned before entering surface waters and soil, but vinyl chloride is highly mobile in soils and water and can persist for years in groundwater.
“It is advisable that farmers and other residents in this area test their wells over the next few months at least for the presence of the spilled chemicals including vinyl chloride, in order to protect the health of humans and livestock. Because the combustion of vinyl chloride that resulted from the accident may have created highly toxic dioxins, surface soils downwind of the spill site should be tested for dioxin levels particularly where food crops are to be grown.”