Headaches, coughing, burning of the skin: Symptoms Ohio residents have experienced after toxic train derailment

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  • Nearly three quarters of the 168 people who completed a health assessment survey said they had experienced headaches since the train derailment.
  • Six in ten reported coughing, while just over half said their skin has been irritated or painful.
  • State officials say the survey results will be used to “better understand how the derailment incident may be impacting residents and determine appropriate public health response.”


Health assessment surveys from East Palestine, Ohio, have shown that the most common symptoms experienced by residents since last month’s toxic train derailment include headaches, coughing, and anxiety. 

The findings of the survey, conducted by the Ohio Department of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, were released Friday. Other common symptoms reported by residents were fatigue and irritation, pain, or burning of their skin, according to a statement from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s office.

The “After Chemical Exposure (ACE) Community” survey was completed by 168 people who in the last two weeks have either gone to the state’s health assessment clinic or have been visited at home by federal officials. 

The median age of those surveyed was 57 and nearly all respondents are older than 18.

DeWine’s office said Friday that officials will use the information to “better understand how the derailment incident may be impacting residents and determine appropriate public health response.” 

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What did the survey reveal?

Nearly three-quarters, or 74%, of the participants, said they had experienced headaches since the derailment. Six in ten reported coughing, and just over half said they had experienced irritation, pain, or burning of their skin.

Of the 168 respondents, 64% reported feeling anxiety and 58% said they felt fatigue or tiredness.

Toxic derailment aftermath

In addition to releasing results from the health assessment surveys, DeWine’s office provided updates on the remediation process in the area.

According to DeWine’s office, the state’s Environmental Protection Agency is overseeing train track removal operations. In a plan submitted by Norfolk Southern, the removal of tracks, excavation of soil, and reconstruction of the rails are set to be completed by April 30.

DeWine’s office also said water sample results from private water systems of East Palestine homes “continue to show no harmful levels of contaminants.” Of the 157 private systems tested, 57 samples have been verified and none have shown harmful levels.

Hazardous waste removal from the derailment is ongoing, according to DeWine’s office. The hazardous waste has been hauled to various disposal sites in Ohio and other states.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said in total, about 3.2 million gallons of liquid wastewater have been removed from the East Palestine area and approximately 1,700 tons of solid waste have left the derailment site.

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Norfolk Southern has said it is “committed to coordinating the cleanup project and paying for its associated costs,” and wants to ensure that East Palestine’s residents and natural environment recover.

Federal and state officials have repeatedly said it’s safe for evacuated residents to return to the area and that air testing in the town and inside hundreds of homes hasn’t detected any concerning levels of contaminants.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the company to cover the costs of cleanup from the derailment that toppled 38 rail cars in East Palestine. 

On Monday, Ohio, Gov. Josh Shapiro’s office said he met with Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw last week and secured an initial commitment for financial aid as the cleanup from the derailment continues. According to the governor, the company will pay $5 million to reimburse fire departments for equipment that was contaminated or damaged and $1 million to Beaver and Lawrence counties to help business owners and residents whose livelihoods were damaged.

Another nearly $1.4 million will go to state agencies that responded, including for setting up a health clinic for residents, Shapiro added.


Contributing: The Associated Press