Almost half of all the U.S. government investigators deployed to the site of the toxic trail derailment in East Palestine, Ohio have fallen ill, according to reports.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been investigating the Norfolk Southern 100-car train derailment and subsequent toxic chemical fallout.
However, large numbers of investigators have been experiencing symptoms of illness while studying the health impacts, authorities said.
The federal government dispatched a 15-member crew, which included members of the Epidemic Intelligence Service, to survey the fallout from the disaster.
The CDC told CNN last week that seven members of the crew began feeling symptoms while examining residents’ homes near the contaminated areas of the small Ohio town.
“Symptoms resolved for most team members later the same afternoon, and everyone resumed work on survey data collection within 24 hours,” a CDC spokesperson told the network.
“Impacted team members have not reported ongoing health effects.”
Local and state authorities previously evacuated all residents within one mile of the February 3 derailment.
After the evacuation, officials started a controlled burn of substances on the wrecked vehicle.
Five of those train cars emitted vinyl chloride, a human carcinogen used to manufacture PVC.
The burn caused massive plumes of black smoke to fill the skies that were visible throughout eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.
Residents have since raised the alarm over health symptoms they experienced after the controlled burn.
Before working from their hotels, some group members began experiencing sore throats, headaches, coughing, and nausea.
The reports mirrored the symptoms noted by many of the town’s residents near the derailment site.
Federal officials did not disclose what caused investigators to experience such symptoms.
Two contractors from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) out of 100 personnel working on the derailment also reported health symptoms after working in areas where the chemicals created strong odors.
Four weeks after the chemical catastrophe permeated the town’s atmosphere, the Ohio Department of Health published the results of surveys conducted at its East Palestine Health Assessment Clinic.
The results of door-to-door visits by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services were also made public.
The results showed more than half of the 168 After Chemical Exposure (ACE) community surveys reported headaches, anxiety, coughing, fatigue, and irritated skin after the derailment.
However, the surveys did not indicate if the residents were exposed to harmful levels of chemicals or what caused their symptoms.
On Friday, EPA officials, along with the Justice Department, announced a lawsuit against Norfolk Southern.
The suit seeks “penalties and injunctive relief for the unlawful discharge of pollutants, oil, and hazardous substances” under the Clean Water Act.
It also calls for “declaratory judgment on liability for past and future costs” related to the incident under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.
The complaint from the EPA and Justice Department said materials released from the train cars, such as vinyl chloride, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, Ethylhexyl acrylate, butyl acrylate, isobutylene, and benzene residue, have been “associated variously” with impaired fetal development, organ damage, cancers, and other health conditions with a sufficiently high degree of exposure.
Nevertheless, state and federal officials have repeatedly claimed that the air and water supplies in East Palestine are safe for residents.
Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw testified before Congress earlier this month regarding the derailment.
Yet he made no specific promises regarding the firm’s commitment to handling economic and health fallout into the future.
READ MORE: East Palestine Residents Give Grim Update after Toxic Train Wreck: ‘We’re Dying Slowly’