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Ohio Church to Host Researchers Studying Effects of East Palestine Chemical Spill, Train Derailment

Ohio Church to Host Researchers Studying Effects of East Palestine Chemical Spill, Train Derailment

A Presbyterian church in East Palestine, Ohio, is hosting a group of researchers after a train carrying noxious chemicals derailed in the town.

First United Presbyterian Church has offered its building as a working site for a team of researchers from the University of Kentucky, Religion News Service reports.

"The residents deserve to know what chemicals are in their bodies, especially from this derailment," said Erin Haynes, chair of the university's epidemiology and environmental health department. "And then that information can also help inform medical attention that they would need, interventions or better medical care, and monitoring. There needs to be a health monitoring plan for this community."

Earlier this week, Haynes and her team met with study participants to collect biological samples in the community.

"There should have been organized collection of samples of their urine and blood in February," she said.

Twenty East Palestine residents will participate in the study, with 75 participating in another study that asks them to wear silicone wristbands that absorb the chemicals in water and air.

After residents wear the wristbands for a week, the silicone bands will be sent to Duke University to be analyzed for dioxins and other chemicals that result from burning. 

Haynes said she's a Christian, and that inspires her work to help the community.

"I know that God would want us to do it. In the Lord's prayer, we ask that his will be done on earth as in heaven. So how can we make the situation better? How can we bring heaven to anything we're doing, whether it be reaching out with love or empathy and sympathy?" asked Haynes. "I think in this case, they need scientific answers. So let's bring it."

In February, 50 railcars, some carrying toxic and explosive chemicals, jumped the tracks in East Palestine. The accident caused fires and chemicals to spread in the air. The Norfolk Southern emergency crews also conducted a controlled release and burn of five tanks carrying vinyl chloride, releasing the chemical into the air.

"You could taste it in the air," resident Ben Ratner said. "It was like a mix of gasoline, paint thinner and nail polish remover," he recalled.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Michael Swensen/Stringer

Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and She blogs at The Migraine Runner.