An independent analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data from the Ohio train derailment site found that many of the toxic chemicals detected could pose long-term health risks if they continue at current levels.
Scientists from Texas A&M and Carnegie Mellon University studied the measurements of air pollutants collected by the EPA and said nine of the pollutants were at higher than normal levels.
“If they continue at these levels, they may be of health concern,” the researchers wrote on Twitter.
A chemical called acrolein — which can cause inflammation and irritation of the skin, respiratory tract and mucous membranes, according to the CDC — had the highest levels among the pollutants found in East Palestine, according to their research.
“It’s not elevated to the point where it’s necessarily like an immediate ‘evacuate the building’ health concern,” one of the researchers, Dr. Albert Presto, told CNN Health. “But, you know, we don’t know necessarily what the long-term risk is or how long that concentration that causes that risk will persist.”
EPA officials said that the current higher-than-normal concentrations of the pollutants are expected to dissipate and are not a concern to residents’ health in the short term.
Residents would need to be exposed to the increased level of pollutants for months — if not years — to develop serious health effects, another of the researchers Weihsueh Chiu told the Washington Post.
“The long-term risks referenced by this analysis assume a lifetime of exposure, which is constant exposure over approximately 70 years,” an EPA spokesperson told CNN Monday. “EPA does not anticipate levels of these chemicals will stay high for anywhere near that.”
The agency has tested the air quality at 578 homes in East Palestine as of Monday and found no areas of alarm.
However, some residents who live near the site of the Feb. 3 train derailment said they’ve experienced skin rashes and difficulty breathing, according to Presto.
“We can’t say whether these levels are causing the current symptoms,” Chiu told the Washington Post. “[The EPA] would want to definitely make sure that these higher levels that are detected would be reduced before they left and declared everything cleaned up.”
Even if the toxins dissipate, researchers are concerned chemicals that saturated different soil and areas could be stirred up by weather events and temperature changes.
“We don’t know the health impact of a more chronic, low-level exposure,” the associate research professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University said.