Report: Much of South Jersey Town’s Residents Got Sick After Train Derailment

A report from the New Jersey Department of Health details residents' reported health reactions after a train derailed and released vinyl chloride.

Image via NTSB

Image via NTSB

A new report form the New Jersey Department of Health says that most of the town of Paulsboro, New Jersey, was sickened by a train derailment that released vinyl chloride in 2012.

The report, which was posted on the National Transportation Safety Board’s website last week, says “58% of participants in the In-Person Survey and 66% in the Mailed Survey reported experiencing new or worsening symptoms in the week-long period after the train derailment and vinyl chloride release.” Vinyl chloride is a chemical primarily used to make the polymer PVC.

The reports details the symptoms:

The most commonly reported symptom or symptom groups were headache, upper respiratory symptoms (predominantly irritation of nose or throat), and coughing. Other common symptoms included: neurological symptoms (predominantly dizziness or lightheadedness), eye symptoms (mostly irritation of the eyes) and lower respiratory symptoms (mostly difficulty breathing). Participants in the Mailed Survey consistently reported somewhat higher symptom frequencies than participants in the In-Person Survey.

The symptoms that were more commonly reported are consistent with what is known to occur from exposure to vinyl chloride, specifically headache, irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs, coughing, nausea, and dizziness or lightheadedness. All of these symptoms have multiple causes, and many may occur as a result of anxiety, fear or stress induced by traumatic events.

An estimated 31 percent of Paulsboro residents participated in the survey,” Mark Cuker, a lawyer representing thousands of people in the town, told the South Jersey Times’s Rebecca Forand.

The NTSB’s investigation into the 2012 crash is ongoing.