The East Palestine Train Derailment & America’s Water Supply: Water Quality Updates & Key Considerations

by Francesca Macias / Feb 22, 2023
The East Palestine Train Derailment & America’s Water Supply: Water Quality Updates & Key Considerations

Widespread water safety concerns have emerged following the catastrophic Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.  Here’s what you need to know, even if you don’t live near Ohio. 

5 Things Every American Needs To Know Right Now

  1. The latest information suggests more than 1 million pounds of cancer-causing vinyl chloride was released into the environment following the derailment. 

  2. The derailment area affected at least 6 waterways, including the Ohio River which serves tap water to more than 5 million people. 

  3. Vinyl chloride is legally allowed in tap water in all 50 states. It is also allowed in bottled water.

  4. According to EWG data, vinyl chloride was detected in tap water in at least 22 states, before the East Palestine catastrophe. 

  5. Many mainstream water filters can not remove vinyl chloride. However, all Clearly Filtered water filters remove up to 99.8% of vinyl chloride from tap water. (If you’re searching for protection, tap here to shop our premium water filters.)

The Latest Headlines From East Palestine

At time of publication, here are the latest headlines regarding the East Palestine derailment and its impact on water safety. 

February 17, 2023

Multiple public water systems have stopped accepting water from the Ohio River.

Nearly 300 miles from the site of the derailment, the city of Cincinnati stopped accepting water from the Ohio River to protect its public water supplies.

Shortly after, the Northern Kentucky Water District made a similar announcement; closing its Ohio River water intakes to protect 300,000+ Kentucky residents from being exposed to potentially contaminated tap water. 

February 19, 2023

Contaminated soil is still being removed from the derailment area.

This as a top soil and crop scientist warns vinyl chloride is “highly mobile” in soil and water. 

Initial testing that declared public drinking water supplies safe is being questioned. 

Per HuffPost, the testing that Ohio authorities relied on to declare the municipal water in East Palestine safe to drink was funded by the railroad operator (Norfolk Southern)... and did not initially comply with federal testing standards.

Latest lawsuit claims fish and wild animals are dying as far as 20 miles away from the site of the derailment.

This after thousands of fish were found dead in local waterways spanning approximately 7.5 miles.


East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway warns, "This is a long-term thing.” Conaway added, “We're not going to know the true effects of this for years down the road."


View the latest updates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  At Clearly Filtered, we are water safety advocates—not officials nor reporters. So we encourage you to do your own research to stay up to date on the latest information coming out of East Palestine.

Keep scrolling for a short overview of what happened in East Palestine and everything you need to know about vinyl chloride and its impact on water safety. 


Quick Recap: What Happened?

On February 3, 2023, approximately 38 rail cars derailed in a fiery crash in East Palestine, Ohio. 

The train that derailed was carrying several hazardous materials including vinyl chloride, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate, isobutylene, and butyl acrylate. It is believed two rail cars also contained benzene residue.

During the derailment (and during the days following), it’s estimated that millions of pounds of these hazardous materials were released into the environment leading to mandatory evacuations and controlled burns. 

While East Palestine residents have since been told the air and public water supplies are safe, they are skeptical. Many have reported nausea, sore throats, headaches, dizziness, burning eyes, and other symptoms, as well as the lingering smell of chemicals miles away.

And perhaps even more alarming is what locals are seeing in waterways and surface water, including thousands of dead fish across 7.5 miles of streams. 

Are residents still at risk? Are spilled and burned chemicals polluting the air, water, and soil? Are they really safe? Those are the questions everybody wants answered.

The hazardous material on everybody’s mind is vinyl chloride; large amounts of the cancer-causing, colorless gas were released during the derailment… and later burned in the environment to prevent potential explosions.

Because vinyl chloride can easily evaporate into air, sneak into water and soil, and even mobilize, risk of exposure extends far beyond East Palestine. 

What Is Vinyl Chloride (& How Dangerous Is It)?

Vinyl chloride, also known as chloroethene, chloroethylene, monochloroethylene, and ethylene monochloride, is a cancer-causing, colorless gas that is produced for commercial use.

It’s primarily used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is used in PVC pipes, wire and cable coatings, car parts, and other plastic products including some packaging materials. Tobacco smoke also contains low levels of vinyl chloride.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifes vinyl chloride as carcinogenic, which means it can cause cancer.

In fact, the cancer-causing substance is a “volatile organic compound” that can vaporize into the air at room temperature and dissolve in groundwater.

You can’t see vinyl chloride, making it an invisible danger. And while it does have a faint, sweet odor, you can only smell (and taste) it at extreme levels that have already put you at risk (

So the cancer-causing chemical can hide in drinking water, air, and soil—and you’d probably never know it!


Vinyl Chloride Can Cause Multiple Times Of Cancer

The EPA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) have classified vinyl chloride as a known human carcinogen, which means it causes cancer.

And according to the National Cancer Institute, high levels of vinyl chloride exposure is associated with an increased risk of the following health effects:

  • Two types of liver cancer: A rare form called hepatic angiosarcoma as well as primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma).
  • Brain cancer.
  • Lung cancer.
  • Lymphoma.
  • Leukemia. 
  • Liver damage, kidney damage, nerve damage, and other health risks. 


It Has Potentially Been Linked To Birth Defects, Too

Studies on laboratory animals suggest that vinyl chloride might affect human growth and development in children. Animal studies also suggest that infants and young children might be more susceptible than adults to vinyl chloride-induced cancer. 

That’s likely why the Director of the Ohio Department of Health, Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, encouraged East Palestine residents to be careful of contaminated water, “particularly if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or preparing formula for an infant.” 


Vinyl Chloride Can Sneak Into Tap Water From Discharge, Spills, Soil, & More

Remember, vinyl chlorine is not found in nature. It is a man-made chemical. The most extreme levels of vinyl chloride are often found in air around factories used for the production of polyvinyl chloride.

But the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) points out that vinyl chloride can also leach into groundwater from plastic manufacturing facilities, hazardous waste sites, and landfills.

Now here’s what’s really concerning: If soil is contaminated, the chemical can sneak into water supplies (likely due to rain or runoff). And if a water supply is contaminated, it can enter the air in your home when that water is used for showering, cooking, laundry, etc.

Richard Peltier, an environmental health scientist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, summarized it like this: “Contaminated soil will continue (to) leach contaminants, both up into the air, and down into the surrounding ground… (and) every time it rains, a flood of new contaminants will enter the ecosystem.”

So vinyl chloride contamination spreads up, down, and all around. And as soil and crop scientist Murray McBride pointed out, vinyl chloride is “highly mobile in soils and water.”

Which means it can spread far and fast!


Plus, It Can Be Dangerous For Decades!

Murray McBride also noted that if vinyl chloride gets into soil, it can remain for decades. And since it is mobile, that means the chemical can pollute air and water for decades too!


Vinyl Chloride Is Legally Allowed In Our Public Water Supplies Today

The U.S. EPA set the Maximum Contaminant Level (mcl) for vinyl chloride at 2 parts per billion. Which means the agency responsible for regulating our tap water allows up to 2 parts per billion (ppb) of vinyl chloride in tap water today.

The problem is some health officials, like those at the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), believe vinyl chloride poses a public health cancer risk at levels as low as .05 ppb.

So vinyl chloride could pose a cancer risk at just .05 ppb. Yet, the U.S. EPA allows up to 40x that in our tap water today!


It’s Allowed In Bottled Water, Too!

While tap water is regulated by the EPA, bottled water is regulated by the FDA because bottled water is classified as a food.

However, it seems the two agencies share the same standards for vinyl chloride.

Therefore, bottled water can potentially have the same amount of vinyl chloride in it as tap water. 


Many Mainstream Water Filters Can Not Capture Vinyl Chloride

Why can’t popular water filters capture vinyl chloride?

For the very same reason many of these mainstream water filters can’t capture arsenic, fluoride, PFAS, and hundreds of other dangerous contaminants that are regularly found in tap water today…

Because they are not powerful enough!

So how do you protect yourself from contaminated tap water?

All Clearly Filtered Filters Capture Vinyl Chloride

All of our premium water filters remove up to 99.8% of vinyl chloride from tap water.

Not only do they capture vinyl chloride, they also capture hundreds of other dangerous contaminants too—including arsenic, fluoride, PFAS, and more!

If you haven’t already, tap here to upgrade to Clearly Filtered so you never have to worry about what’s in your water again.

Remember, our proprietary filtration technology protects you and your family from hundreds of dangerous contaminants other water filters can’t, including vinyl chloride!