Smoke rises from a derailed cargo train in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 4, 2023. - The train accident sparked a massive fire and evacuation orders, officials and reports said Saturday. No injuries or fatalities were reported after the 50-car train came off the tracks late February 3 near the Ohio-Pennsylvania state border. The train was shipping cargo from Madison, Illinois, to Conway, Pennsylvania, when it derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. (Photo by DUSTIN FRANZ / AFP) (Photo by DUSTIN FRANZ/AFP via Getty Images)
Food - Drink
How Ohio's Train Derailment Could Impact The US Food Supply
On February 3, 2023, a freight train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, and over 1,500 residents were ordered to evacuate for fear of toxic fumes and a potential explosion. Chemical runoff has already killed at least 3,500 fish in nearby streams, creating concerns about livestock and crop supply for the food system.
While testing is still ongoing, the latest updates suggest that long-term effects of the accident on humans and farm animals should be minimal, since chemicals are no longer leaking. The substances don’t build up in animal tissue when inhaled, so consuming meat or eggs from animals near the site will not cause health problems in humans.
As for crops and fish, while vinyl chloride, a chemical that becomes a carcinogen in high concentrations, has already likely been broken down and evaporated out of topsoil and streams, it may last much longer in groundwater. Any chemicals in streams will be significantly diluted over time and can be filtered out at water treatment facilities.
This news is mostly good, since Ohio is a major supplier of corn, pumpkins, bell peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers to the rest of the U.S., as well as chicken, cheese, and eggs. Since the wreckage has been cleared from the train tracks, shipping traffic can resume along the line, which can help avoid further supply chain complications.