Residents in East Palestine, Ohio have given a grim update on their declining health following the toxic train derailment earlier this month.
Locals in the small town, where a Norfolk Southern train derailed on February 3 causing a subsequent toxic explosion, say they are now suffering disturbing symptoms, the New York Post reports.
“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,” said 40-year-old Wade Lovett.
Lovett now has a high-pitched voice that sounds as if he’s been inhaling helium.
‘My voice sounds like Mickey Mouse,” he said.
“My normal voice is low,” Lovett explains.
“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.”
Leading the charge to fight for the community is 46-year-old Jami Cozza, a lifelong East Palestinian who counts 47 close relatives here, according to the Post.
Many of them are facing health issues from the chemical fire as well as the psychic toll of their town becoming, in the words of a scientist visiting the area Thursday, the new “Love Canal” — a reference to the Niagara Falls, NY, neighborhood that became a hotbed issue in 1978 because people were getting sick from living above a contaminated waste dump.
Many residents are also complaining of mystery rashes and sore throats after returning home following the lifting of evacuation orders on February 8.
“Yesterday was the first day in probably three or four days that I could smell anything,” said Shelby Walker, who lives a few yards from the epicenter of the crash and explosion.
“I lost my smell and my sense of taste.
“I had an eye infection in both eyes.
“I was having respiratory issues like I was just out of breath.
“Other members of my family have had eye infections and strep throat.
“The cleanup crew drives past us at night and won’t even look at us.
“It’s like we don’t exist. No one has reached out to us or told us anything.”
According to an independent analysis of EPA data by Texas A&M University released on Friday, nine air pollutants were found around East Palestine at levels that could cause long-term health concerns.
“My fiancé was so sick that I almost took him to the hospital,” Jami Cozza told the Post.
“Not only am I fighting for my family’s life, but I feel like I’m fighting for the whole town’s life.
“When I’m walking around hearing these stories, they’re not from people.
“They’re from my family,” she said.
“They’re from my friends that I’ve have grown up with.
“People are desperate right now. We’re dying slowly.
“They’re poisoning us slowly.“
According to a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of hundreds of residents, Norfolk Southern “went rogue” when it made the decision three days after the derailment to blow up five train cars containing deadly vinyl chloride.
Around 1.1 million pounds of the toxic compound were spilled and later burned, the suit claims.
Norfolk Southern, meanwhile, says they consulted with experts and Gov. Mike DeWine (R) before the controlled burn.
The company said the controlled burn was done to avoid a potential “catastrophic failure of the cars.”
“What they could have done and should have done is remove all the vinyl chloride from the train cars and put them in secure containment vessels,” said Rene Rocha of the Morgan & Morgan law firm, one of the lead attorneys on the class-action case.
“They then should have excavated tons of soil and monitored and remediated the soil and groundwater.”
Cozza’s hearing included a panel with scientists from the University of Pittsburgh, an environmental lawyer, and a veteran Ohio hazardous materials expert.
None of them painted a rosy picture of the town’s future, despite Norfolk Southern’s insistence that the area is safe and will be cleaned up and tested more.
The experts listened as desperate residents asked about the safety of breastfeeding their babies and getting water from their wells.
Planting season is coming soon in an area with many farms.
One woman cried when she spoke about her worry over her pregnant goats, according to the Post.
According to Harvard-trained toxicologist, Stephen Lester, the hot zone at East Palestine is one of the “most concerning” he’s ever seen – and warned that the chemical dioxin that was released during the controlled burn will be embedded in the soil and water.
“Until the government takes this seriously there are going to be real problems,” said Lester.
“It’s criminal that the EPA didn’t come forward with information about dioxin and start testing for it.”
READ MORE: Biden ‘Can’t Recall’ If He Spoke to East Palestine Mayor about Train Disaster