Ohio Train Derailment: Understanding the Chemicals Involved and Environmental Impact


On February 23, 2023, a freight train derailed in a rural area of Ohio, causing significant damage and releasing hazardous chemicals into the environment. The incident has raised concerns about the chemicals’ potential environmental and health impacts. Understanding the chemicals released in the derailment and their environmental effects is crucial for effective response and mitigation efforts. This article aims to provide an overview of the chemicals involved in the Ohio train derailment, their properties, and potential environmental consequences.

The train included about 20 rail cars carrying various hazardous materials, with the EPA listing five materials known to have been released:

  • Vinyl Chloride
  • Butyl Acrylate
  • Ethylhexyl Acrylate
  • Ethylene Glycol Monobutyl Ether
  • Isobutylene

The EPA, investigating the release of hazardous substances, has reported that the chemicals have been released into the air, surface soils, and surface waters at the derailment site.

The released chemicals include a mix of flammable, toxic, and carcinogenic substances that pose significant health and environmental risks. Residents and workers have been advised to avoid the area and take necessary precautions to protect themselves from these hazardous chemicals. The EPA works closely with local authorities and cleanup crews to contain the spill and prevent contamination of nearby water sources and ecosystems. The full extent of the environmental damage caused by the spill is not yet known, but it is expected to have a long-term impact on the surrounding area.

What is Vinyl Chloride?


Vinyl chloride is a colorless gas used primarily to manufacture polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a widely used plastic material. However, due to its toxic properties, vinyl chloride is a potent environmental hazard. When released into the environment, it can contaminate the soil, water, and air, leading to serious health problems for humans and animals.

Vinyl chloride exposure is linked to liver and lung cancers and damage to the central nervous system. Additionally, vinyl chloride is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. The production and disposal of PVC products also generate toxic pollutants, such as dioxins, which are persistent in the environment and pose a long-term threat to human health and ecosystems. As a result, efforts to reduce vinyl chloride use and adequately manage its disposal are crucial for protecting the environment and public health.

What is Butyl Acrylate?

Butyl Acrylate

Butyl acrylate is a clear, colorless liquid that is used in the manufacturing of a variety of products, including adhesives, coatings, and textiles. While butyl acrylate has many industrial applications, it can also pose significant environmental hazards. Butyl acrylate can contaminate water, soil, and air when released into the environment. Inhaling or ingesting butyl acrylate can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and skin, and exposure over long periods may increase the risk of cancer.

In addition, butyl acrylate is flammable, which increases the risk of fires and explosions during its handling and transportation. Disposing of butyl acrylate products can also cause environmental harm, as it can release toxic chemicals into the soil and waterways. To minimize the environmental risks associated with butyl acrylate, proper handling, disposal, and monitoring are essential to ensure that it is not released into the environment in excessive quantities.

What is Ethylhexyl Acrylate?

Ethylhexyl Acrylate

Ethylhexyl acrylate is a clear, colorless liquid widely used in producing adhesives, coatings, and plastics. However, like many chemicals used in industrial processes, it can pose significant environmental hazards. Ethylhexyl acrylate is highly flammable, and its release into the environment can lead to fires and explosions. Additionally, it is toxic and can irritate the eyes, skin, and respiratory system. Inhaling or ingesting ethylhexyl acrylate can also cause damage to the liver and kidneys and increase the risk of cancer.

Disposing of ethylhexyl acrylate products can also pose environmental hazards, as it can contaminate soil, water, and air, harming aquatic life and wildlife. Proper handling and disposal are crucial to minimizing the ecological dangers of ethylhexyl acrylate. This includes using appropriate protective equipment during handling and disposing of waste ethylhexyl acrylate per local regulations to prevent environmental contamination.

What is Ethylene Glycol Monobutyl Ether?

Ethylene Glycol Monobutyl Ether

Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether is a colorless liquid commonly used as a solvent in various industrial applications, including paint and coating formulations, printing inks, and cleaning agents. However, its use and disposal can have profound environmental implications. Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether is a volatile organic compound (VOC) that can contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, a major component of smog, which can cause respiratory problems in humans and harm plants.

When released into the environment, it can also contaminate soil and water, posing a threat to aquatic life and wildlife. Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether can be toxic to humans when inhaled or ingested, causing headaches, dizziness, and nausea, and long-term exposure can damage the liver and kidneys. To minimize the environmental dangers of ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, handling and disposing of it properly, using appropriate protective equipment and ensuring that it is not released into the environment in excessive quantities.

What is Isobutylene?


Isobutylene is a colorless gas widely used to produce various chemical products, including plastics, rubber, and fuel additives. However, it can pose significant environmental hazards when released into the environment. Isobutylene is a volatile organic compound (VOC) that contributes to the formation of ground-level ozone and smog, which can cause respiratory problems and harm plants. It can also be toxic to aquatic life and wildlife when it contaminates water.

Inhaling high concentrations of isobutylene can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat, and exposure to it over long periods can increase the risk of cancer. Isobutylene is also flammable and explosive, which increases the risk of fires and explosions during handling and transportation. To minimize the environmental dangers of isobutylene, it is essential to properly handle and dispose of it, using appropriate protective equipment and ensuring that it is not released into the environment in excessive quantities.


The Ohio train derailment event underscores the importance of properly handling and transporting hazardous substances. It is crucial to ensure that proper safety measures and protocols are in place to prevent such accidents from happening in the future. In the aftermath of the incident, authorities must continue monitoring the site and surrounding areas for signs of environmental damage and take necessary actions to minimize the impact on the ecosystem and public health.

The incident also highlights the need for improved emergency response planning and preparedness, including communication and coordination between government agencies, emergency responders, and local communities. We can work towards a safer and more sustainable future by learning from this incident.

Did you know? When it comes to hazardous material clean up, safety and compliance are critical. That’s where Wastebits software comes in. Our innovative platform makes it easy to manage and track hazardous waste, ensuring safety and compliance at every step. Learn more here: Efficient Disaster Management: Wastebits is Ready to Power the Ohio Train Derailment Cleanup.

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