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East Palestine residents' illness problems grow

By Sarah May
|
February 27, 2023

Despite repeated assurances from governmental authorities that the air and water surrounding the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment pose no threat to area residents, a host of novel physical complaints are being reported by those living nearby, including one ailment a local man says has made him sound “like Mickey Mouse,” as the New York Post reports.

Wade Lovett is among those in the Midwestern town whose health has been on the decline ever since the Feb. 3 incident, and the bizarre changes to his voice represent just one of the frightening symptoms he has experienced in recent days.

Post-derailment maladies emerge

The controversy surrounding the decision to conduct a so-called controlled release of hazardous chemicals contained in the cars of the train that derailed appears unlikely to subside anytime soon, particularly given the increasingly worrisome stories coming out of East Palestine of late, including that told by Lovett.

Though Lovett has no doubt that something is very wrong with his body, he has yet to receive the definitive answers from medical professionals he would like.

“Doctors say I definitely have the chemicals in me, but there's no one in town who can run the toxicological tests to find out which ones they are,” the 40-year-old auto detailer explained in an unusually high-toned voice.

“My voice sounds like Mickey Mouse. My normal voice is low,” Lovett declared. It's hard to breathe, especially at night. My chest hurts so much at night I feel like I'm drowning. I cough up phlegm a lot. I lost my job because the doctor won't release me to go to work.”

Troubling symptoms mount

As CNN notes, other residents of East Palestine have reported ongoing issues with sore throats, rashes, headaches, nausea, bronchitis, and other health concerns that set in after they returned to their homes following evacuation from the area.

With the controlled burn already known to have released vinyl chloride gas, phosgene, hydrogen chloride, butyl acetate, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether acetate, and other chemicals into the air, the rising incidence of the aforementioned complaints are giving more than a few residents pause about the wisdom of their continued presence.

Local resident Amanda Greathouse told CNN that it was not long after she was permitted to return home that she decided “we couldn't raise our kids here,” noting that within 30 minutes of re-entering her home, she developed nausea and a rash.

“We are very fortunate that we rent our home. Didn't think I would ever say that. I feel awful for my landlord, but I just can't risk my family's health,” Greathouse added, as she explained her decision to leave for good.

Government assurances questioned

As CBS News reports, environmental officials assigned to the derailment have continued to assert that ambient and residential air quality levels in East Palestine are normal, citing hundreds of home re-entry screenings, and CNN indicated that authorities also claim that testing of municipal tap water did not show the presence of any chemicals at dangerous levels.

However, Judith Enck, a former administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, told CBS affiliate station KDKA that something simply is not adding up.

“People came home, they had soot on their cars, on their garage doors, on their houses, and they likely began cleaning up on their own. That was a mistake,” said Enck, suggesting that was a likely driver of the illnesses being observed among local residents and animals in the area.

Enck continued, “People are getting sick from something, so you can't say the air and the water are okay because they obviously are not,” given the noteworthy physical complaints that continue to add up.

Ongoing vigilance required

Even amid claims from a range of authorities that residents of East Palestine need not be overly concerned about their health in the aftermath of the disaster in their own backyard, environmental activist Erin Brockovich recently went to Ohio and implored the citizenry to remain on alert as the situation evolves, as Fox News notes.

“You need to be vigilant, you need to journal, you need to document information,” Brockovich insisted.

“These chemicals take time to move in the water. You're going to need groundwater monitoring people on well water: You really need to be on alert. They're going to need to implement soil vapor intrusion modeling. Believe us. It's coming,” Brockovich added.

With many parents in East Palestine expressing particular concern for the health of their kids as their bodies continue to develop, Brockovich declared, “You start getting 50 and 100,000 p***ed off moms together – I'm telling you right now: Things change.” Whether the government – and Norfolk Southern – will respond appropriately, however, only time will tell.