Chemical train derailment highlights need for stronger safety rules to protect the environment

Residents on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border are returning to their homes this week following their evacuations over looming explosion fears after a train carrying 20 cars of hazardous materials derailed.

Toxic threats

Brandon Bourdages |

Nearly two weeks after a 50-car train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, near the Pennsylvania border (and the Pittsburgh metropolitan area), thousands of people who live nearby in both states are rightfully concerned about how the vinyl chloride and other chemicals that potentially went up in flames may adversely impact their health and environment. 

About 4.5 million tons of toxic chemicals are transported through U.S. communities every year by rail, and 12,000 trains carrying hazardous materials cross through towns and cities each day.

Often railroads are the safest and cleanest way to transport goods — but when they’re carrying hazardous materials, we need to ensure that they aren’t putting our environment at even greater risk. For years we have blown the whistle about toxic threats like we’re seeing play out on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. 

The public — including first responders — has a right to know what chemicals are being shipped through their communities. We need stronger rules requiring all chemical producers, users and transporters to adopt safer processes and chemicals.


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