Ohio residents sue for medical monitoring after toxic train derailment

Some residents have complained of headaches and feeling sick.
Loukia Papadopoulos
The Ohio train derailment.jpg
The Ohio train derailment.


A new federal lawsuit is demanding that railway company Norfolk Southern pay for health screenings after the fiery derailment of one of the company’s trains that was carrying toxic chemicals. The incident happened along the Ohio-Pennsylvania line.

Residents of the affected regions are seeking to force the rail operator to set up health monitoring for them. The train consisting of three locomotives and 150 freight cars, was headed from Illinois to Pennsylvania when it derailed shortly before 9 p.m. EST on Friday.

It then set off a massive fire that forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes in the immediate vicinity.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported that about 50 cars actually left the tracks, 20 of which carried hazardous materials.

Medical screenings and related care

The lawsuit was filed Thursday by two Pennsylvania residents and called for Norfolk Southern to pay for medical screenings and related care for anyone living within a 30-mile (48-kilometer) radius of the incident. The lawsuit is also seeking undetermined damages.

The accident saw about 50 cars, including 10 carrying hazardous materials, derailed on February 3 in the Ohio village of East Palestine. Luckily, no one was injured.

Investigators later said the accident was caused by a broken axle.

To make matters worse, three days after the accident, authorities decided to release and burn vinyl chloride inside five tanker cars. This process saw hydrogen chloride and the toxic gas phosgene sent into the air.

Authorities further warned that the fumes could be deadly if inhaled, while also posing the risk of skin burns and serious lung damage.

The reasons for venting this gas were not revealed but the railroad claimed that its workers had prepared drainage pits and embankments, apparently to contain residue from the release.

Meanwhile, environmental experts have been closely monitoring the air and water in communities surrounding the accident location. They have so far claimed that the air quality remains safe and drinking water supplies have not been affected.

However, there have been some complaints from residents who have said they have had headaches and have felt sick since the incident.

Norfolk Southern has declined to comment on the lawsuit, but considering the events, the rail giant could very well be forced to pay substantial medical monitoring bills.

The accident remains the company’s responsibility meaning that all resulting events would also be its responsibility, according to a video report published by Al Jazeera on Sunday.

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