Rail Ohio Workers Falling Sick Amid Toxic Derailment Clean up

The rail workers handling the cleanup of toxic materials at the train derailment site in East Palestine, Ohio, are reportedly getting sick. Labor Union leader Jonathan Long told Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a letter that some of the nearly 40 workers cleaning up the wreckage are falling sick as Norfolk Southern tasked them with the cleaning but did not give them proper equipment for personal protection.

“I have received reports that [Norfolk Southern] neither offered nor provided these workers with appropriate personal protective equipment, such as respirators that are designed to permit safely working around vinyl chloride, eye protection and protective clothing such as chemical retrain suits,” the letter obtained by CNBC reads.

As written in the letter, many of the workers were not provided protective clothing, eye protection, or even supplied respirators. Hence, they are exposed to toxic chemicals which cause them to suffer migraines and nausea. In Long’s words, several of the workers “reported that they continue to experience migraines and nausea, days after the derailment, and they all suspect that they were willingly exposed to these chemicals at the direction of [Norfolk Southern].”

The letter further accused Norfolk Southern of a “lack of concern for the workers’ safety.”

Long isn’t the only union leader who has spoken up for workers ordered to clean up the toxic train derailment. The presidents of 12 unions met with officials of the Biden Administration, including Buttigieg and Federal Railroad Administration head Amit Bose and made them aware of the issue.

“The railroaders’ labor represents … the employees who make it safe and they must have the tools to do so,” the president of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, Mike Baldwin, said.

Union leaders also asked the Biden Administration to come up with more effective safety measures that can be used when moving toxic chemicals by rail. “My hope is the stakeholders in this industry can work towards the same goals related to safety when transporting hazardous materials by rail,” he said.

The union presidents also sent letters to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway to inform them of the development.