The recent chemical disaster in East Palestine, Ohio is being described as one of the worst in the history of the United States. Some say that this was on the level of the Chernobyl, Ukraine nuclear disaster. It is necessary to provide some context to this situation. A train derailment happened in a very small town in Ohio near Pennsylvania and the northernmost part of West Virginia. Some of the rail cars were carrying a highly volatile chemical called vinyl chloride. The chemical is typically used to create PVC pipes and vehicle interior upholstery.
There have been spills of the chemical before, most notably in New Jersey. The difference between that spill and the recent one in Ohio is that the chemicals did not burn in New Jersey. In Ohio, the cars crashed and burned, sending toxic fumes up into the sky and the clouds. The resulting chemical from burned vinyl chloride is hydrogen chloride. This chemical compound latches onto water, including water vapor in the atmosphere, and creates a toxic acid.
This acid can rain down from the sky as acid rain and it can also manifest itself in soil and sitting bodies of water like rivers. People who live in and around the town have reported entire schools of fish dead and floating down stream. Some people’s pets immediately died as soon as the chemical exposure happened. Vinyl chloride is already known to be cancer-causing when exposed to it for too long, which is why there are regulations when it comes to using it for manufacturing.
Ohio: After a train derailment, residents are living the plot of a movie they helped make | CNN
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What Is Vinyl Chloride, The Chemical That Caused Ohio’s Immense Explosion? | IFLScience