Sierra Club Responds to Ohio Derailment, Toxic Vinyl Chloride Release


Tuesday, February 7, 2023


Contact: Cindy Carr,


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Sierra Club Responds To Ohio Train Derailment, Toxic Vinyl Chloride Release

EAST PALESTINE, OH -- Late Friday evening, a Norfolk Southern Railway train carrying five cars containing millions of pounds of vinyl chloride -- a potent carcinogen used to make PVC pipes, upholstery, plastic kitchenware, and more -- derailed near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, prompting thousands of residents within a two-mile radius to evacuate. Exposure to vinyl chloride is linked to liver cancer and when burned, vinyl chloride produces acutely toxic gases including hydrochloric acid and phosgene. 

On Monday, officials from Pennsylvania and Ohio ordered a “controlled vent and burn” of the vinyl chloride, due to a critical increase in the temperature of the train cars. The cars were punctured and chemicals burned in an effort to prevent a catastrophic explosion. Overnight, residents outside of the evacuation zone reported chemical odors and were advised to “shelter in place.”

Nearby residents within a one-mile radius are still required to evacuate, and those who need help evacuating can call 330-426-4341.

In response, Shelly Corbin, Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign, issued the following statement: 

“The Sierra Club’s thoughts are with the communities who have been forced to evacuate and have been exposed to these toxic chemicals. Train derailments, factory explosions, and chemical pollution happen far too frequently in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and across the country. Moving forward, East Palestine and the surrounding communities deserve transparent communication from elected officials, Norfolk Southern, and federal and state regulatory agencies about the extent of damage to local water and lands, a comprehensive plan to mitigate the harm caused by vinyl chloride, the steps that will be taken to minimize the risk of any future chemical disasters, and the ongoing threat posed by the transportation and use of highly toxic chemicals like vinyl chloride. 

“The East Palestine community - like so many other communities across the country - was unprepared for this disaster. It is the responsibility of elected officials, emergency responders, the EPA, transportation companies like Norfolk Southern, and chemical manufacturers to protect the public from exposure to hazardous chemicals like vinyl chloride during every step of the process from production, transportation, use, and disposal.

“We don't have to live like this. Every person living in this country - regardless of zip code, income, or race - has the right to live safely in their communities without the risk of toxic chemicals irreparably polluting their air, their water, and their ground."


About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit

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