The impact of some crises is often immediate, while others can take months or years to become fully known.
One such delayed crisis could be how the air pollutants released by the February 3 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, will affect the health of residents and the quality of living in their communities.
That possibility made headlines yesterday when an independent analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data found nine air pollutants at levels that, if they continue, “could raise long-term health concerns in and around East Palestine,” the Washington Post reported.
Also of concern is the fact that “The analysis by Texas A&M University researchers stands in contrast to statements by state and federal regulators that air near the crash site is completely safe, despite residents complaining about rashes, breathing problems and other health effects” according to the newspaper.
It would take months, if not years, of exposure to the pollutants for serious health effects, Weihsueh Chiu, one of the researchers, said.
The EPA, which has been monitoring the air quality levels in the area, was quick to respond, saying that the levels of 79 chemicals “remain below levels of concern for short-term exposure and that current concentrations are likely to dissipate,” the Washington Post wrote.
The phrase “time will tell” comes to mind when trying to determine—or guess—when or whether, and how those chemicals will affect people and their communities.
The Lessons From 9/11
But that cliche symbolizes a potential time bomb of a future crisis. Unfortunately, it would not be the first time.
“The collapse of the Twin Towers created massive dust clouds that filled the air and left hundreds of highly populated city blocks covered with ash, debris, and harmful particles,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
“Analysis of hazards revealed numerous agents and experiences that could cause physical and psychological harm. Responders, recovery workers, and survivors were exposed to these at varying degrees,” the CDC noted.
“According to a report by the Center for Public Integrity, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared the air was safe to breathe following the 9/11 attacks,” Newsweek reported.
Not Enough Data At The Time
But “Years later, the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General reported that the EPA didn’t have enough data to make that statement, and air monitoring data used at the time didn’t include tests for several concerning pollutants,” the news outlet said.
“Almost 70 types of cancer have been linked to 9/11, most thought to be the result of area business owners and workers, residents, students, first responders, and others breathing in air contaminated with the residue of building materials, microscopic shards of glass, and asbestos for months after the attacks,” according to the website of law firm Pitta and Baione.
What will be the long-term impact of the Norfolk Southern train derailment? Will that crisis spawn other crises in the months and years to come?
Time will tell.