Workers who aided in the cleanup of the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment have been experiencing prolonged bouts of sickness, according to reports from a union representative.
Jonathan Long of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees reported the issue Wednesday in a letter to Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio Republican.
“Many other employees 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, wrote Mr. Long, whose union is a division of the Teamsters.
The letter claims that workers were not given proper protective gear to facilitate the cleanup, including eye protection and respirators.
Norfolk Southern, which owns the derailed train, strongly disagreed with Mr. Long’s claims.
The company denies the union’s charges of wrongdoing.
“In East Palestine, Norfolk Southern was on-scene immediately after the derailment and coordinated our response with hazardous material professionals who were on site continuously to ensure the work area was safe to enter and the required PPE utilized.” the company told The Hill.
Residents of East Palestine were evacuated soon after the derailment over concerns the toxic fumes from the crash posed a serious health risk.
However, people were told they could return to their homes soon after. Some residents have reported health issues since, including rashes and difficulty breathing.
The derailment has sparked intense anger at the government and private businesses.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has been heavily criticized for his delayed response to the crisis and Norfolk Southern has also come under heavy fire from people who see its cost-cutting business strategies as contributing to the derailment.
• Vaughn Cockayne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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