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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has initiated a review process for vinyl chloride, the hazardous substance involved in the East Palestine, Ohio spill earlier this year. This review is the first step toward possible further restrictions or a complete ban of the substance.

Vinyl chloride, used in plastic production, is among five substances the EPA is scrutinizing under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The agency’s review process, expected to take 12 months, will determine if these chemicals should be classified as “high-priority substances,” leading to a comprehensive risk evaluation. While this move does not immediately indicate a ban, it starts a process that could conclude with significant restrictions or prohibition, with the EPA taking up to three years to assess whether the substance poses an “unreasonable risk to human health or the environment.”

The review follows the February incident in East Palestine, where a Norfolk Southern train derailment led to a vinyl chloride spill. Although the accident caused no fatalities or injuries, the subsequent controlled burn by local authorities to prevent an explosion raised concerns about the long-term impact of chemical fumes. The EPA will also evaluate other chemicals, including acetaldehyde, acrylonitrile, benzenamine, and MBOCA.

Jess Conard, director of Beyond Plastics Appalachia and an East Palestine resident, emphasized the broader implications of the incident. “We’ve learned a lot from the situation in East Palestine — which is not the only vinyl chloride contamination event, as some would like you to believe. If you live along the rail line, you are at risk for the same fate with every passing train that is transporting toxic chemicals,” Conard stated.


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