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Train Derailments Continue to Cause Toxic Chemical Spills in the U.S.

 Posted on February 19, 2024 in Toxic Exposure

Blog ImageOn February 3, 2023, a freight train carrying hazardous materials derailed near East Palestine, Ohio. The accident caused a rupture of several tank cars containing dangerous chemicals, resulting in a massive toxic spill. The event quickly turned into an environmental disaster as harmful substances infiltrated water sources and polluted the air residents breathed.

The immediate effects were felt by people and families living in close proximity to the accident site; they experienced symptoms ranging from nausea and respiratory problems to skin irritations and eye discomfort. Officials chose to perform a controlled burn of several derailed train cars, releasing smoke and chemicals into the atmosphere and potentially affecting people in nearby regions, including areas in southwest Pennsylvania surrounding Pittsburgh.

People who have been exposed to toxic chemicals may suffer a variety of serious health conditions, and they will need to understand what they can do to address these issues. An attorney who has experience representing people affected by toxic chemical exposures can help determine who was responsible for these issues while helping hold companies accountable for accidents and injuries caused by their failures to follow the correct safety procedures.

The Increasing Frequency of Train Derailments

Sadly, train derailments have become distressingly common across the United States. In fact, even though more attention has been paid to this issue following the incident in East Palestine, the number of derailments and other dangerous accidents has increased over the past year. The five largest railroad companies in the U.S. reported that there were 256 accidents in the first 10 months of 2023, which was an 11 percent increase from the previous year. The rate of derailments increased by 13.5 percent. The number of accidents involving overheated wheel bearings—the cause of the East Palestine derailment—was more than double the number of these accidents in 2022.

Clearly, there are some serious safety issues that should be addressed by the railroad industry. Railroad companies are using longer and longer trains, with some stretching multiple miles. They have also failed to implement safety systems that could prevent derailments, such as ensuring that detectors that can identify overheated wheel bearings are placed on tracks at the proper intervals.

Railroad Industry's Fight Against Safety Regulations

Despite these concerning trends, attempts to enhance safety regulations within the railroad industry have faced opposition. Influential players in this sector have continuously lobbied against stricter rules that would mitigate the risks associated with transporting hazardous materials via trains. Their arguments often revolve around concerns about financial burdens and disruptions to business operations.

While Congress has attempted to pass legislation that would strengthen safety regulations, railroad company lobbyists have fought these changes. Improved regulations would require more stringent inspections, ensure that the proper technology is used to detect issues that could lead to derailments, and implement additional protections to prevent the release of hazardous materials. However, lobbyists have fought to weaken or eliminate many of these regulations. Instead, they have claimed that they can implement safety protections on their own, without the need for government oversight.

The measures taken by the railroad industry highlight their prioritization of profit over public safety concerns. As a result, communities across the country continue to face unnecessary risks posed by train derailments and toxic chemical spills.

Contact Our Pittsburgh Toxic Chemical Exposure Attorneys

At Colianni & Leonard LLC, we believe in holding companies responsible for causing people to suffer harm through the release of dangerous chemicals and other hazardous substances. Railroad companies that have failed to implement the proper safety measures to prevent derailments and chemical spills should be held liable for the harm that these issues cause to people. Our Allegheny County hazardous chemical exposure lawyers can provide representation for people who have been affected by these issues, and we work to pursue full and fair financial compensation for our clients. To learn how we can help you take legal action against these companies, contact us at 412-680-7877 and schedule a free consultation.

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