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One day before the National Transportation Safety Board’s final hearing on the East Palestine train derailment, the Biden administration announced a new federal rule to ensure first responders could immediately identify hazardous chemicals on derailed trains.

The new rule now requires railroads to promptly inform local first responders about hazardous cargo in the event of an accident. During the East Palestine incident, firefighters faced significant challenges in identifying the chemicals involved due to inadequate communication from the railroad company. This new rule, which will take effect in 30 days, aims to prevent such issues by requiring railroads to maintain and share detailed, real-time information about hazardous materials on their trains with local emergency responders.

Train Derailment Virginia

When announcing the new rule, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said, “In a hazmat incident, firefighters and first responders arriving on scene need to know what kind of hazardous materials are present so they can protect themselves and their communities. This final rule will require railroads to maintain detailed, real-time information about trains carrying hazardous materials – and share this information with local emergency responders when they need it.”

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This comes after the Norfolk Southern derailment last year resulted in the spill of vinyl chloride, a deadly chemical used in plastic production. Short-term exposure to vinyl chloride can cause symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and respiratory issues, while long-term exposure has been linked to cancer.

Despite local, state, and federal officials saying those in the community will be fine, some local residents of East Palestine have reported various health issues following the derailment. These include rashes, dizziness, fatigue, and headaches.


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