Steve Buchanan of Omaha expects the East Palestine train derailment to go down in history as one of the nation’s worst natural disasters.
The short-term aftermath of the East Palestine trail derailment has horrified millions around the nation as local residents report health problems, dying animals, toxic water, and more. However, the long-term impact of the disaster and its aftermath will resonate not just while the news spotlight is on the area but for many years afterward. The release of ethylene glycol monobutyl, Ethylhexyl acrylate, vinyl chloride, and butyl acrylate into the air cannot be undone; these chemicals will inevitably make their way onto the ground, into the soil, and into underground reservoirs and wells. What’s more, the animals and people exposed to these toxins will continue to suffer the side effects of that exposure.
Steve Buchanan of Omaha points out that Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services has reported that vinyl chloride increases the risk of lung, liver, and other types of cancer in animals and humans. It can also cause miscarriages and birth defects. Ethylhexyl acrylate causes not only serious eye, skin, and lung irritation but also has long-lasting negative effects on aquatic water life. At present, over 43,000 fish and amphibians have died from exposure to these chemicals; this will inevitably impact birds and mammals that rely on aquatic animals as a food source.
The impact on people living in the area cannot be undone. Locals are already reporting the deaths of farm animals and pets, and concerned residents have pointed out that in time the chemicals will likely seep into underground water and wells that some residents rely on for drinking water. Those who live in the area would likely find it difficult, if not impossible, to sell their homes at a reasonable price, putting many in the difficult position of having to choose between living in a toxic environment or trying to move to a new area without being able to tap into the equity they have built in their current properties. The loss of farmland will do nothing to lower rising food costs, as many may not be able to overcome the loss of both land and livestock.
Steve Buchanan of Omaha says that the East Palestine rail disaster will not be forgotten as its aftermath will live on long after the news cameras leave the area. There is no precedent for the simultaneous release of four toxic chemicals into the atmosphere, so only time will tell what the exact long-term effects of the disaster will be. However, the short-term effects have already been disastrous, and there is no sign that the released chemicals will disappear from the environment and/or become less toxic in the foreseeable future.
The lessons learned from incidents like East Palestine are invaluable for shaping policies and practices that protect both people and nature. As individuals, businesses, and governments alike work towards creating a more sustainable world, it is important to remember what happened in East Palestine – so that we don’t repeat history.