Residents near the site of the toxic train derailment said they were afraid to shower for fear of contamination.
Nearly three weeks have passed since about 50 freight cars on a 150-car Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, days after five of them were carrying a controlled burn of a toxic cocktail.
The train is thought to be carrying highly flammable and carcinogenic vinyl chloride, which can cause dizziness, headaches, drowsiness and even some cancers.
Authorities said more than 1.5 million gallons of pollutants and contaminated water have been removed from the area since the accident.
Doug Brayshaw, 63, told NBC that he was sitting on his porch when he noticed a plume of black smoke rising from the scene of the affair.
He added: “We were afraid to take a shower.
“I won’t even give my dog water from the well now because I’m so worried.”
Amanda Greathouse told CNN she got home about 30 minutes later with a rash and nausea, and her eyes were “burning.”
“That’s when we decided we couldn’t raise our children here,” she added.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it began monitoring air quality within 24 hours of the derailment and is also helping monitor indoor air quality.
So far, levels of vinyl chloride and hydrogen chloride have not been reported to exceed levels of concern.
But the 4,700 people in East Palestine remain worried — headaches, eye irritation and other problems have been reported since the derailment.
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“Increased Cancer Risk”
“The data on cancer risk from a single high exposure is not good,” said former EPA toxicologist Ila Cote.
“But it’s safe to say that if people are highly exposed to vinyl chloride, they have an increased risk of cancer.”
Mo Osman, who runs a lab hired by the county to analyze its water samples, told NBC: “If a well is safe now, we don’t know what the quality of the water will be in a week, a month, or two months.
“Contamination can take time to propagate from the source of contamination to individual wells, so it’s important to continue sampling at some frequency.”
‘Have fun everyone’
Donald Trump, who is running for president next year, was in town Wednesday, taking the opportunity to criticize the federal government’s response to the disaster.
He told residents: “In too many cases, your kindness and persistence have been met with indifference and betrayal.”
Mr. Trump stopped at McDonald’s to hand out hats, order meals for emergency responders and buy food for his plane home.
He donated cleaning supplies and Trump-branded bottled water to those concerned about the safety of tap water, telling supporters before signing the autograph: “Have fun everyone.”
Trump said he hoped U.S. President Joe Biden would leave “some money” for East Palestinian residents when he returns from this week’s trip to Ukraine.
In response, the White House criticized Trump for not doing enough as president to strengthen railroad and environmental laws.
Train operators won’t ‘get off the hook’
Meanwhile, EPA Administrator Michael Reagan, who visited the site last week, vowed to have Norfolk Southern clean up the damage from the derailment.
He said: “Let me be clear: Norfolk South will pay for cleaning up the mess they’ve created and the trauma they’ve inflicted on this community.
“Norfolk Southern are not going to get away with the mess they’ve caused anyway.”
Norfolk Southern’s chief financial officer, Mark George, responded: “We take responsibility…we put our heart and soul into getting things done.
“We’re here for the long haul.”