Communities Other than East Palestine Being Exposed to Vinyl Chloride

Toxic Exposures at a Chemical Plant

Communities Other than East Palestine Being Exposed to Vinyl Chloride

East Palestine, Ohio showed just how susceptible communities can be to toxic chemicals. Many communities that are also exposed to these chemicals want the same recognition that East Palestine is receiving. People who live in Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley” are happy East Palestine is bringing attention to chemical exposures in communities, but would also like people to know they are suffering as well. The train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio released harmful chemicals like vinyl chloride, a key component in the making of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, into the surrounding community. Officials claim it is safe to live and be in the area, but many residents in the area are reporting health issues, leading to residents, environmentalists, and government officials in Washington to raise issues with the company and local officials.

Multiple communities unrelated to the train derailment also must deal with toxic exposure to vinyl chloride. A list of self-reported toxic chemical emissions from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory reports that 428,000 pounds of vinyl chloride was released into the air by 38 different facilities in the United States last year. States with the highest level of emissions are Texas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and New Jersey. Companies that emit these chemicals claim there are safeguards in place to protect local environments.

One of the chemical manufacturers stressed the importance of vinyl chloride and polyvinyl chloride. Polyvinyl chloride is used in many products like medical tubing in IV and blood bags, coatings for electrical wiring, and PVC pipes that are used for transporting clean water to homes. Another spokesman from a different company also emphasized the importance of vinyl chloride and claimed that emissions from the company are nowhere near the levels seen in East Palestine. He also stated that the processes inside the facilities are different than a train crash. The manufacturing of the chemicals is in a controlled environment, which allows employees to respond to issues that come up. People in these communities refute this and say that the exposure to vinyl chloride is causing health problems for locals.

Research scientists have discovered that people in communities exposed to vinyl chloride are having respiratory problems. Vinyl chloride is known to be harmful to the respiratory system and can cause other health problems. Vinyl chloride is linked to liver, brain, and lung cancers. It is also damaging to the liver and nervous system and can cause joint and muscle pain and leads to Raynaud’s phenomenon, which reduces blood flow to people’s extremities. Louisiana has a particularly problematic area known as “Cancer Alley” because residents in the area are exposed to toxic substances. Residents in the area have a 51 percent higher risk of developing cancer than the national average.

Residents in this area believe attention needs to be brought to the communities struggling with these exposures. One community member created a chemical of the month club to bring attention to chemicals people are being exposed to. Some changes could be coming, which would include limits on how much of the chemicals can be emitted from plants. Chemicals include vinyl chloride, ethylene oxide, and benzene. The organization that represents chemical companies is concerned about the rule. The American Chemistry Council thinks that the EPA is rushing to make rules that can be very broad. Environmentalists on the other hand believe these rules are an important step in addressing industrial pollution.

Any plants opened in Louisiana will require permits and will be monitored closely. Company officials claim that having new plants involves a lot of calculation and that new plants do not automatically mean more pollution in an area.

Do you have cancer after being exposed to vinyl chloride or another toxic substance? Contact us today to see if you could be entitled to compensation. Call 412-471-3980 or fill out our contact form to learn your options.

Rachel Frazin, “East Palestine isn’t alone: Communities around the country grapple with toxic chemical exposure” The Hill (April 9, 2023). [Link]

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