ACMT Statement on Possible Effects of Exposure to Vinyl Chloride and Other Chemicals in East Palestine, OH

Friday, February 17, 2023 

The American College of Medical Toxicology (ACMT), a professional membership organization of physicians who specialize in the treatment of poisoning and chemical exposures, has been closely following the events following the train derailment and subsequent fire that occurred on February 3, 2023  in East Palestine, OH.

According to reports, the train carried several chemicals, including vinyl chloride, which produces hydrogen chloride and phosgene upon combustion. Vinyl chloride is a colorless gas with a mild, sweet odor that can cause nerve damage acutely, and liver tumors after prolonged exposure. Phosgene is a colorless gas with odor described as freshly cut hay. Phosgene causes lung injury in large acute exposures. Hydrogen chloride is a colorless-to-slightly yellow gas that causes irritation to eyes and lungs.

We are aware of reports that residents are reporting chemical smells and concern for toxic exposure. At this time the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not detected levels of concern of any of these chemicals in the air or water system in the surrounding areas.The long-term human and environmental consequences of low-level doses of these chemicals is not yet known.

Those who have health concerns about acute exposure should contact their local Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 for medical advice from toxicology experts. For soil or water contamination concerns, contact the EPA Response Hotline at 215-814-2400.

ACMT is committed to supporting communities affected by this event by supporting our members who provide direct medical care. ACMT members are available for expert consultation. ACMT also operates a multicenter toxicosurveillance network  (the Toxicology Investigators Consortium - ToxIC) which is active throughout the country.  We will continue to monitor this incident as it evolves.