EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) – The health of the people of East Palestine — present and future — was the topic Tuesday evening of a detailed meeting in the sanctuary of a church in the middle of town. The bottom line: people were exposed to toxic chemicals from the Feb. 3 train derailment — that can’t be changed. So, early detection of any diseases will be the best way to stay healthy.
Captain Jill Shugart of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry told the 30 people at the meeting what they’re facing.
“We don’t know for certain if there will or won’t be long-term health effects from these exposures,” she said.
Shugart was followed by Dr. Arthur Chang of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“There is no way to get rid of vinyl chloride from the body. There is no way to get rid of dioxins from the body,” he said.
Dr. Chang said the key to a healthy East Palestine will be early detection of any health issues, especially cancers.
“We may not know how to treat to get rid of vinyl chloride from the body but we know how to treat those cancers,” he said.
Should people in East Palestine start developing cancer, the CDC wants to know about it.
“Your doctor can report any of those cases to the health department and then we would know that there is a cluster of illness that are not explained, so that we can get more people and more resources here to help,” Dr. Chang said.
Shugart explained that 702 people completed surveys by the end of March.
“People told us that they had headaches, coughing, difficulty breathing, stuffy nose or sinus congestion and burning nose or throat,” she said.
Shugart said they expect the symptoms to lessen over time.
Even some of the people doing the surveys — those closest to the derailment site — became sick.
“Some staff conducting the ACE survey door to door in the same area did not exhibit these same symptoms,” Shugart said.
One woman in the audience told the speakers they were leaving her high and dry to worry. It was upsetting her.
“None of you have to go home and sleep with this at night,” the woman said.
The woman also said that every effort should be taken to make sure all the health testing is done properly.
“If we’re going to be statistics, you need to get this done right so other people can be helped,” the woman said.