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In the News...A Developing Story: Palestine, Ohio Norfolk Southern Train Derailment Update

James Odell, OMD, ND, L.Ac.

On Feb. 3, 2023 just before 9 p.m. ET, a Norfolk Southern train derailed near East Palestine, Ohio, a town of about 4,800 people near the border with Pennsylvania. The train's 150 rail cars were carrying various cargo - cement, steel, and frozen vegetables – but 20 cars contained hazardous materials. About three dozen cars derailed overall, 11 of which were carrying hazardous material. Five of the derailed cars were carrying vinyl chloride, a man made substance that is a starting material for polyvinyl chloride (PVC), the world's third most widely used plastic. Vinyl chloride is typically transported in the form of a compressed liquid. PVC is a material used in a wide variety of applications, including pipes, plumbing fixtures, siding, window frames, and many other products. It is also used in the production of vinyl chloride monomer (VCM), which is used to make PVC resins, coatings, and other materials.


Vinyl chloride has been classified as a human carcinogen since 1987. Inhalation of vinyl chloride can cause respiratory symptoms like shortness of breath, along with neurological symptoms like headaches and dizziness. Chronic exposure to vinyl chloride has been associated with cancer, nerve damage, and liver and kidney damage, and can cause a rare form of liver cancer called angiosarcoma.


There were other hazardous chemicals spilled in the derailment including ethylene glycol monobutyl ether which is used as a solvent to make paints and varnish and is extremely toxic to ingest, as well as ethylhexyl acrylate (also a carcinogen), and isobutylene (neurologically toxic). These substances, depending on the amount of exposure, can cause symptoms like dizziness, headaches, irregular heartbeat, loss of consciousness, convulsions, and even death.


Immediately after the derailment “officials” decided to intentionally burn off – set fire to the chemical spill. When vinyl chloride is burned, it breaks down into various compounds, such as hydrochloric acid, phosgene, and hydrogen chloride. Phosgene is a highly toxic, colorless gas with a strong odor that can cause vomiting and breathing trouble and was used as a weapon in World War I. Even worse, the burn-off of vinyl chloride releases certain dioxins.


Because burning vinyl chloride can cause the production of these toxic chemicals, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine urged residents in a one-by-two-mile area surrounding East Palestine—which included parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania—to evacuate. DeWine described the urgency as a “matter of life and death.”

Three days later, DeWine held a press conference announcing that the evacuation order had been lifted and residents could return to their homes. Norfolk Southern trains resumed their routes through East Palestine, and federal and state officials said testing showed that “the air and water are safe”.


In short, things have really gone off the rails in East Palestine, Ohio. The “controlled” burn-off caused a huge plume of toxic black smoke that extended for miles and dissipated over countless acres of pristine farmland. Thousands of animals have now died in and around East Palestine. Officials report extensive death of minnows, fish, crayfish, and amphibians. Additionally, there are continued reports of birds falling from the sky, dead chickens, and other animals in and around East Palestine becoming sick or dying. The birds that have not perished have flown away. More than 1,000 people — including residents, business owners, and others — have been adversely affected or harmed by the initial toxic exposure.


Material from the crash was observed in storm drains and detected in samples from Sulphur Run, Leslie Run, Bull Creek, North Fork Little Beaver Creek, Little Beaver Creek, and the Ohio River. An oily product was seen seeping into the soil. Because the contaminated water runoff drains into the Ohio River, recently, Cincinnati and Louisville (where I live) have cut off their municipal water intake feed from the Ohio River. They cited an “observance of caution” as contaminated water approaches the intake juncture. However, neither Cincinnati nor Louisville have not tested the water for dioxins, and they claim their other tests — for totally different chemicals — show no alarming results. The CDC and mainstream media are not admitting the seriousness of this ecological catastrophe.

The long-term effects on people, animals, and farmland are unknown but point to one of the worst toxic spills in US history. It is anyone’s guess as to whether this will cause widespread cancers in future years, but it does greatly increase the risk. Several lawsuits from residents in Ohio and Pennsylvania have been filed against Norfolk Southern. One federal lawsuit against Norfolk Southern claims that the train derailment released 1.1 million pounds of vinyl chloride into the air.

Of particular concern are the dioxins created during the burn-off or combustion process. Dioxins are a group of persistent environmental pollutants that can remain in the ground and body for years and have been one of the major environmental problems and controversies in the United States. Experts are worried that exposure to dioxins could have long-term health effects on individuals who were exposed. People near the huge plume of smoke were likely inhaling dioxins coming from the fire. Dioxins can attach themselves to soot particles, traveling through the air and eventually settling on lakes, reservoirs, and soil. Concentrations of dioxins on farmland where livestock are grazing cause the animals to ingest the chemicals, potentially contaminating the food chain.

Once dioxins enter the body, they last a long time because of their chemical stability and their ability to be absorbed by fat tissue, where they are then stored in the body. Their half-life in the body is estimated to be 7 to 11 years or longer. In the environment, dioxins tend to accumulate in the food chain. The higher an animal is in the food chain, the higher the concentration of dioxins. The developing fetus is most sensitive to dioxin exposure. Newborns with rapidly developing organ systems may also be more vulnerable to its adverse effects.

More than 90% of human exposure to dioxins is through the food supply, mainly meat and dairy products, fish, and shellfish. Therefore, protecting the food supply is critical. In addition to source-directed measures to reduce dioxin emissions, secondary contamination of the food supply needs to be avoided throughout the food chain. Thus, contaminated animal feed (soil–grass) is often the source of dioxin exposure.


Laboratory Analysis


Unfortunately, the quantitative chemical analysis of dioxins requires sophisticated methods that are available only in a limited number of laboratories around the world. The analysis costs are very high and vary according to the type of sample, but range from over US $1000 for the analysis of a single biological sample.


Increasingly, biological (cell- or antibody) - based screening methods are being developed, and the use of such methods for food and feed samples is increasingly being validated. Such screening methods allow more analyses at a lower cost, and in case of a positive screening test, confirmation of results must be carried out by a more complex chemical analysis.


Detoxification Considerations


The first step is to remove the source of toxic exposure, which means drinking purified water and consuming food from an uncontaminated source. Secondly, several food supplements may be used to assist in dioxin detoxification. The first consideration is chlorella. Chlorella is a freshwater, single-cell green algae that, despite its tiny size, is incredibly dense with nutrients.


There is also a good amount of evidence pointing to chlorella’s ability to help prevent the body’s accumulation of dioxins. The research suggests chlorella helps prevent dioxin accumulation in a few ways. First, it appears to hinder the absorption of dioxins via food in the gastrointestinal tract. Secondly, it seems to inhibit the reabsorption of dioxins already in the intestinal tract. The result, in both cases, is that the dioxins are excreted rather than stored. Not only does chlorella bind dioxins but also herbicides, pesticides, and possibly mycotoxins from molds, as well as heavy metals.


Also, chlorella is abundant with protein: Gram for gram, chlorella contains more protein than most any other food out there. To give you a comparison, there are 63.8 grams of protein per 100 grams of chlorella, compared to just 27 grams of protein in 100 grams of sirloin steak. Chlorella is also a top source of chlorophyll, a potent antioxidant, and pigment that gives the algae its bright green hue. And it’s rich in all sorts of beneficial vitamins, minerals, digestive enzymes, omega-3 fatty acids, and other antioxidants.


References


Franz, Justin (February 16, 2023). "Pressure Builds on Norfolk Southern After Toxic Wreck in Ohio". Railfan & Railroad Magazine. Archived from the original on February 18, 2023. Retrieved February 19, 2023.

"Officials urge evacuation near East Palestine train derailment, fearing 'catastrophic failure' may be imminent". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. February 5, 2023. Archived from the original on February 17, 2023. Retrieved February 17, 2023.

"3 additional chemicals discovered on East Palestine train derailment". WKBN.com. February 13, 2023. Archived from the original on February 13, 2023. Retrieved February 13, 2023

K Morita, M Ogata, and T Hasegawa. Chlorophyll derived from Chlorella inhibits dioxin absorption from the gastrointestinal tract and accelerates dioxin excretion in rats. Environ Health Perspect. 2001 Mar; 109(3): 289–294.

Takekoshi H1, Suzuki G, Chubachi H, Nakano M. Effect of Chlorella pyrenoidosa on fecal excretion and liver accumulation of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxin in mice. Chemosphere. 2005 Apr;59(2):297-304. Epub 2005 Jan 7.


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