Edward W. Boyer, MD, PhD, medical toxicologist at The Ohio State University, discusses chemical exposure, health complaints, and clean-up plans for the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
It makes sense to do extensive testing as a result of the Ohio train derailment, said Edward Boyer, MD, PhD, medical toxicologist, emergency medicine physician, and professor of emergency medicine at The Ohio State University.
Toxic liquids from the train derailment in Ohio are being injected undergound. What are possible health or environmental consequences of this?
It’s going to depend on what sort of aquifer is nearby, what sort of flow goes through the aquifer; if it's injected into a cleanup site that has underground dams built around it.
In eastern Massachusetts, there was, back in the 1950s, an electronics manufacturing plant that had a trichloroethylene spill. And the trichloroethylene spill got into the groundwater and began working its way towards an aquifer that supplied 2 other towns in eastern Massachusetts. It didn't cause a problem because it never got to the aquifer. But it didn't get to the aquifer, because the 2 towns that drew their water from the source built an underground concrete dam to divert the trichloroethylene. So, it pays to know some specifics about what the disposal infrastructure is; if it's if it's truly isolated from the environment, v just sort of dumped someplace, that it could come back to affect others later on.
How are researchers able to determine if there are any long-term health effects from toxic exposure?
The issue here is not so much the parent chemicals themselves, it's not the vinyl chloride, it's not the butyl acrylate themselves, it's also the products of combustion as well as how these molecules can react if they get into the groundwater and into aquifers.
Like a truism in toxicologic evaluations, we don't know, necessarily, everything that we're looking for at the beginning. So, we make sense. It would make sense to cast a broad net in terms of trying to identify whether or not identified conditions can be traced back to the exposure itself. To do that, you have to have a sense of what the outcomes are, what the medical problems are. But we don't necessarily know that because we don't know the universe of chemicals that was produced in the burn or disseminated into the groundwater, or reacted with substances while it was down there.
It mandates for good monitoring of health in general, visits to primary care physicians, if there are acute complaints, I would I think it would make sense to refer to an expert for, again, an independent objective observer to identify if there is something that is structural, if there is something producing the medical complaint. And then the last piece of it is going to be good record keeping that somebody's watching in real time.
We're not we're not reinventing the wheel here. There have been plenty of toxic exposures, including where its unknown what people were exposed to and what the outcomes were. It requires that somebody be looking and that I think is going to be the most important thing; get data and have people look at the data and scan it on an ongoing basis.