Train Carrying Molten Sulfur Derails, Causing Hazmat Situation
Residents in a Lakeland, Florida, neighborhood were prompted to stay indoors for several hours after a train derailment causes a hazardous chemical spill.
According to NPR, at around 2 a.m. Monday morning, a CSX cargo train derailed in a residential area near Kathleen Road. Four of the train cars involved in the derailment leaked their contents of molten sulfur, a hazardous chemical used in manufacturing rubber, fertilizers, paper, and sulfuric acid. Hazmat crews were called to the scene to assist with clean up.
Residents nearby were asked to shelter in place, close windows, and turn off their air conditioning until the situation was handled. Sulfur is a known irritant to skin, eyes, and mucous membranes and can cause burns.
According to NPR, no injuries have been reported due to the chemical spill. Roadways near the spill have been closed off as the molten sulfur is cleaned up and the train wreckage is removed.
The train was traveling from Waycross, Georgia, to Winston, Florida, when the derailment occurred for reasons currently unknown. CSX is investigating the cause of the early morning train derailment.
The train of nearly 200 rail cars was carrying several items, including cardboard, rock, and oats, in addition to the molten sulfur.
Injured from a Chemical Spill? Contact an Experienced Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one have been hurt due to an exposure to a hazardous chemical or substance from an event such as a train derailment, contact Thomas J. Henry. Our attorneys handle all types of personal injury claims and will fight on your behalf to get the compensation you deserve. Truck crashes, train derailments, factory and refinery explosions can release toxic substances into the environment that pose a risk to the surrounding communities. Call us today if you have been injured — our lawyers are available 24/7, nights and weekends.
Sulfur in Pesticides Might be Linked to Children Developing Lung Problems
About the Pesticide Study
Elemental sulfur is the most commonly used pesticide across Europe and the state of California, and although deemed safe for use by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it has been shown to cause eye, skin, and respiratory issues with farmworkers.
Sulfur’s effect on the health of people living near treated crops hadn’t been studied until recently, and researchers are finding a lot of information of how detrimental sulfur can be on the lung health of children.
A study was recently performed to see how sulfur could affect respiratory function in children, and it was found that it can lead to poorer lung function, higher chances of having respiratory issues, and an increased usage of asthma medication in those affected.
More Details on the Study
Dr. Rachel Raanan and her colleagues conducted research to see how children living near farms were affected by the pesticides that were used on crops.
The children that participated were enrolled in the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS) study, which was to see how environmental elements and exposure to various substances affected children in San Salinas, California.
The mothers of the children responded to various questions about their children and what sort of health issues they displayed, with all 347 participants being 7 years of age. Out of this group, 237 of the mothers provided information about their child’s respiratory medications and proximity to agricultural fields treated with sulfur.
It was found that, out of the 237 children, 89.0% were born into immigrant families and 63.4% lived with at least one agricultural worker.
The researchers also discovered that children living within 1 km of a field treated with pesticides that contained sulfur had worse lung function and higher chances of needed medication for respiratory issues such as asthma.
The researchers said that “potential respiratory toxicity of elemental sulfur deserves more regulatory attention” due to the fact that pesticides that use sulfur are so common.
Study Shows That Workers Exposed to Pesticides May Be More Likely To Develop COPD
A recent study conducted in Australia has provided evidence that workers that are exposed to either pesticides or herbicides may be more likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Information About the COPD Study
Reuters reported that the researchers have evidence to support that workers are more likely to develop or aggravate breathing disorders if they work with either pesticides or herbicides during their lifetime.
It was shown that, if a worker was exposed to any sort of herbicide, that they would double their likelihood of developing COPD by middle age. The average age for the participants was 45 years old, with a quarter of them being current smokers.
The study showed that around 6 percent of the workers followed in the study suffered from COPD, and that over 28 percent had asthma or previously had signs of asthma during their lives.
Close to 65 million people worldwide suffer from COPD in varying levels of severity, and the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes it as the cause of 5 percent of deaths. While smoking often contributes to the worsening of the condition, other causes include working or cooking near toxic substances, as well as frequent childhood respiratory infections.
Dr. Steve Georas, an environmental health researcher at the University of Rochester in New York, stated that not enough was known about the “extent of exposure needed to cause changes in lung function”.
Dr. Georas went on to say that even a single exposure to a toxic substance, such as the pesticides, may “cause long lasting changes in airway function”.
Symptoms of COPD
Chronic bronchitis is generally marked daily cough and mucus (sputum) production at least three months a year for two consecutive years. Other signs of COPD include:
- Shortness of breath, especially during physical activities
- Chest tightness
- Having to clear your throat first thing in the morning, due to excess mucus in your lungs
- A chronic cough that may produce mucus (sputum) that may be clear, white, yellow or greenish
- Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds (cyanosis)
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Lack of energy
- Unintended weight loss (in later stages)
- Swelling in ankles, feet or legs
Popular Dissolvent that Can Kill Without Warning Remains on Market
OSHA Works to Confirm 17th Death in 17 Years
Hartley was working for his family’s business when he suddenly collapsed at a Nashville apartment complex in April. Upon finding Hartley, his brother and father began CPR as they waited for paramedics arrived.
Doctors informed Hartley’s family that fumes from methylene chloride, which Hartley was using to refinish a bathtub, had caused his heart to stop. While doctors were able to restart Hartley’s heart, they was no brain activity.
On April 28, Kevin Heartly was pronounced dead at the young age of 21.
Methylene Chloride Can Kill in Under 5 Minutes
Doctors have known about the fatal implications of breathing methylene chloride for more than 50 years – and while the European Union has banned most consumer and professional use, the product remains readily available in the U.S. where home improvement stores sell it by the gallon.
More alarming is the fact that, until this year, the only warning required on the labels of products containing methylene chloride was an alert about potential long-term cancer risks.
The truth is that methylene choloride can kill suddenly and without warning, and as little as 6 ounces can be fatal.
Methylene chloride kills by turning into carbon monoxide upon entering the body. Upon becoming carbon monoxide, the chemical crowds out oxygen in the blood and quickly starves the heart and brain of air. Fatal injuries can occur in as little as 5 minutes.
Prevalence of the Chemical and Proposed Bans
The EPA estimates 1.3 million consumers use methylene chloride products every year. Another 32,000 workers use it on the job. Use of the product has included stripping paint, degreasing food equipment, decaffeinating coffee and tea, and propelling aerosol spray.
The EPA is now pushing to limit the products uses and has proposed a ban on methylene chloride as a paint and coating stripper; however, the proposed rule will take time and may never become law.
In the meantime, experts continue to inform consumers and workers of the potential dangers associated with methylene chloride with OSHA reminding Americans that every death from the chemical is 100% preventable.
Strange Black Dust Raises Concern from Portland Residents
Portland residents are reporting a strange black dust covering their vehicles and homes. Some homeowners believe the dust may be a byproduct of a nearby voestalpine plant, leaving families to wonder if there is cause for alarm.
TCEQ and Plant Owners Work to Determine Source of the Dust
While it is not clear where the dust is coming from, voestalpine Texas, LLC is currently working with independent labs to determine if their nearby plant is the source.
According to voestalpine’s website, the Portland plant manufactures Hot Briquetted Iron (HBI) which is then used in the production of high-quality steel grades.
The Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is also investigating the source of the residue, and several homeowners have begun conducting their own tests as well. One homeowner noted that the dust is attracted to magnets, leading him to believe that the dust contains iron.
In the meantime, voestalpine Texas, LLC has assured local media that they will take responsibility if their plant is determined to be the source of the mysterious residue.
Possible Side-Effects of Iron Dust
If the dust is determined to contain iron, residents should be aware of possible side effects.
Acute side effects tend to be mild and may include:
- Skin irritation
- Eye irritation
- Sore throat and irritated sinuses
Chronic exposure may result in siderosis (commonly referred to as welder’s lung).
1,700 Flint Residents File Lawsuit Against U.S. Government Over Lead Poisoning
Nearly two thousand residents of Flint, Michigan filed a lawsuit against the United States government. According to several news outlets, including Reuters, the 1,700 plaintiffs seek $722 million in damages from the Environmental Protection Agency, claiming that its mismanagement of a water crisis exposed thousands of their children to lead poisoning.
Details of the Lead Poisoning Lawsuit
The lead exposure took place when Flint switched its water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River in April 2014, while under the supervision of a state-appointed emergency manager.
About a year later, tests detected high amounts of lead in blood samples taken from children residing in Flint, and in October 2015, the city reverted to its previous water system.
The 30-page lawsuit specifically cites the “major failure of all levels of government” to protect the health and safety of the public in the “environmental catastrophe”.
Lead Exposure Statistics
According to an article originally published in September 2015 by the Flint Water Study, conducted by an independent research team from Virginia Tech University, 40.1% of the first draw samples taken voluntarily from Flint homes (101 out of 251 water samples) are over 5 parts per billion (ppb).
The study also revealed that Flint’s 90th percentile lead value was 25 ppb, which well exceeds the 15 ppb that is allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency in high risk homes.
Several samples reportedly exceeded 100 ppb, and at least one sample collected exceeded 1000 ppb after less than one minute of flushing.
Flawed CDC Report on Lead Poisoning Left Children In Indiana Vulnerable
According to Reuters.com, the EPA found high concentrations of lead in the soil of the West Calumet Housing Complex in East Chicago, Indiana
Details of the Lead Contamination
The led emissions were from a closed U.S. Smelter and Lead Refinery Inc., also known as USS Lead. Earlier this year the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) detected high lead concentrations in the soil that could pose a serious health risk to families at the housing complex if left as is.
Due to the lead contamination, the West Calumet Housing Complex, aged at 44-years-old, has been marked for demolition and all 1,100 residents are being forced into new homes.
The EPA tried to combat the issues outside of designating the housing complex for demolition. The agency has commandeered a newly built local elementary school and has officials stationed there to offer free blood tests to check the levels of lead poisoning of residents.
Residents of the housing complex are outraged and want to know why the lead contamination in the soil wasn’t identified and removed earlier.
Cause of Delayed Identification of Lead Contamination
One of the reasons West Calumet residents didn’t learn of the lead toxicity was due to the conclusions of a 19-page report issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and conducted by a branch of the CDC—the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).
The ATSDR conducts similar public health assessments to identify potential risks before the EPA and such officials take any further steps to deal with a contamination.
According to a Reuters examination, the conclusion of the report was built on flawed data. The report’s conclusion that residents were at no health risk was wrong as many of the key findings of the report were found to be misleading or baseless.
What The EPA Found
When the EPA sampled the soil in the housing complex, 50% of the homes tested had lead in their topsoil that exceeded 1,200 parts per million. This amount is three times the federal “hazard” level for area that are considered residential.
This “hazard” level permits a “time-critical” action for residents of the area to be removed within six months, according to EPA standards.
According to Indiana’s State Department of Health, since EPA involvement, 10 children under 7-years-old that were residents of the West Calumet houses or other nearby areas had confirmed elevated lead levels.
More monitoring is planned for East Chicago according to experts.
Lead Poisoning Information
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to lead can harm a child’s health in the following ways:
- Delayed growth and development
- Damage to brain and nervous systems
- Learning and behavior problems
- Speech and hearing issues
Chemical Leak at Plant Sickens Nearby Residents
According to KHON2, a chlorine gas leak occurred at BEI Hawaii, causing some residents to panic and wonder why the public wasn’t alerted.
“Should Have Made Public Notification,” says battalion chief
A resident nearby the BEI Hawaii agricultural chemical facility contacted KHON2 wondering why people in the area were not alerted to the chemical leak.
According to a resident, he couldn’t breathe due to the fumes. KHON2 reports that the resident claimed his neighbors’ yards turned brown from the odor.
At approximately 7:00 a.m. local time on September 22, the chlorine gas began to leak, bringing the readings to 2 parts per million, according to KHON2. A BEI regulatory compliance officer says that any reading over 2 parts per million is dangerous.
BEI alerted the fire department less than an hour after the leak began. Employees were evacuating before fire crews arrived, reports KHON2.
At one point, the leak was under control, but fire crews were called back again at around 6:30 a.m. on Friday.
KHON2 reports that two workers and one firefighter received treatment for injuries.
“I Couldn’t Breathe. I Couldn’t Stay in the House.”
One resident said the odor was so strong that he had to visit the emergency room, according to KHON2. The man says he started coughing and vomiting and couldn’t breathe.
BEI says the public wasn’t notified because the readings outside of the facility were at safe levels. However, the fire battalion chief said a notification should have went out due to the serious nature of the chemical that was leaked.
Information on Chlorine Gas Exposure
Signs and symptoms of chlorine exposure include:
- Blurred vision
- Nausea and vomiting
- Watery eyes
- Burning pain and sensation in the nose, throat, eyes, and on the skin
Carcinogen Found in Tap Water of More than 200M Americans, says Environmental Group
Same Toxin Featured in ‘Erin Brockovich’
The non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) released their data and analysis on 23 of the largest water sources in the United States, including San Antonio’s.
Chromium-6, the toxin at the center of the Erin Brockovich movie, was deemed to be at an unsafe level in the drinking water of more than 200 million Americans in all 50 states, according to EWG. California state scientists determined that concentrations of chromium-6 that were larger than 0.02 parts per billion in tap water could cause increased cancer risks.
State regulators, however, settled on a legal limit of chromium-6 in drinking water to be 500 times larger than the proposed limit by the California scientists, says EWG.
San Antonio Water System Rebukes Claims
According to Fox 29 San Antonio, the San Antonio Water System tests the water constantly for toxins, including chromium-6, and no problem has been detected. Mark Hamilton of Edwards Aquifer Authority told Fox 29 San Antonio that much of the chromium-6 in San Antonio tap water is due to natural deposits and in very low concentrations.
In addition, the San Antonio Water System claimed the amount of chromium-6 they’ve discovered is much lower than in the EWG data analysis, reports Fox 29 San Antonio.
Information on Chromium-6 in Drinking Water
The following information is provided by Environmental Working Group (EWG) regarding chromium-6:
- EPA tests showed that water tested in 1,370 United States counties had an average level of chromium-6 exceeding California’s non-binding public health goal.
- According to the California scientists, this amount would pose no more than a one-in-a-million risk of cancer for people who drink it daily for 70 years.
- EWG estimates that if left untreated, chromium-6 in tap water will cause more than 12,000 excess cases of cancer by the end of the century.
- Studies have found that exposure to chromium-6 may present greater risks to infants and children, people who take antacids, and people with poorly functioning livers
- Exposure can cause lung cancer, liver damage, reproductive problems, and developmental harm.
- In 2010, the EPA completed, but did not officially release, a draft risk assessment that classified oral exposure to chromium-6 as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”
$4.2 Million Awarded in Fracking Contamination Lawsuit
According to Reuters, two Pennsylvania families have been awarded $4.2 million in damages after a fracking lawsuit.
What is Fracking?
Fracking is the name of the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressured water mixture is aimed at the rock to release the gas inside.
Water, sand, and chemicals are injected to the rock at high pressure which makes the gas flow out of the head of the well.
Fracking is controversial because it requires large amounts of water that poses a great risk to the environment. Environmentalists also say that carcinogens can be released and contaminate the ground water around the site or can cause small earth tremors as the rocks fracture and become unstable.
About the Fracking Lawsuit
The gas company Cabot Oil and Gas is due to pay two Pennsylvania families for damages suffered after the company’s fracking contaminated their ground water with methane gas during their fracking operations. The two families were the last of 40 that had originally sued Cabot. The others settled with the company back in 2012.
Six jurors awarded $1.3 million to Scott Ely and Monica Marta-Ely in Dimock. Each of their three children also received $50000. Ray and Victoria Hubert also received $720000 each and their daughter was given $50000.
Ely claims that the company is “arrogant and bullies their way to what they want”. This claim was made after the company’s attorney boxed them in during the trial and limited the evidence they could introduce or what they could say in their testimony.
George Stark, a Cabot spokesman said the company was surprised at the verdict and said that there was no evidence linking contamination of the wells to the company’s operations. They will be filing motions that claim the company was not given a fair trial.