EPA Reviewing Toxic Chemical in Ohio Train Derailment

The Biden administration has started a formal evaluation of risks from vinyl chloride, the cancer-causing chemical that burned in a plume of toxic black smoke following the train derailment earlier this year in eastern Ohio.

The Environmental Protection Agency said it will review risks posed by a handful of chemicals, including vinyl chloride.

The EPA said it will study the chemical to determine whether it poses an “unreasonable risk to human health or the environment,″ a process that would take at least three years.

“Under the Biden-Harris administration, EPA has made significant progress to strengthen our nation’s chemical safety laws after years of mismanagement and delay. Today marks an important step forward,” Michal Freedhoff, assistant EPA administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention said.

Environmental and public health activists were pleased with the announcement, saying the review long overdue.

“Vinyl chloride was classified as a human carcinogen in 1974. That same year, the federal government wisely banned the use of vinyl chloride in hair sprays, refrigerants, cosmetics and drugs,” Judith Enck, a former EPA regional administrator and president of the advocacy group Beyond Plastics said.

“Vinyl chloride is transported by rail all over the country and is the primary chemical that has contaminated not just my home in East Palestine, Ohio, but other communities where PVC and vinyl chloride manufacturing facilities exist,” Ohio resident Jess Conard said.

“If you live along the rail line, you are at risk for the same fate (as East Palestine) with every passing train that is transporting toxic chemicals.”

The chemical is often found in plastic PVC pipes, packaging and a range of consumer goods, including furniture and car parts.

According to the National Cancer Institute, inhalation of vinyl chloride has been linked to liver cancer and other health problems.