UK environmental-health scientist Erin Haynes leads study in Ohio to track health impact of train derailment in East Palestine

A University of Kentucky environmental scientist is taking steps to learn more about the health symptoms and exposures faced by the residents of East Palestine, Ohio, following a train derailment through an online health tracking survey.

On Feb. 3, a train carrying hazardous materials derailed near East Palestine, raising concerns about both short- and long-term impacts on the health of the area’s residents.

Erin Haynes, chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the College of Public Health, is leading the research for this project.

“It’s important that we characterize the health symptoms and exposure concerns from residents in East Palestine and in the surrounding area,” Haynes said in a UK news release. “We do not know exactly how far the chemicals have spread, so we want to include all surrounding counties in this survey.”

The survey is open to anyone aged 18 or older who lives in Columbiana, Mahoning, Stark, Carroll and Jefferson Counties in Ohio and residents of Beaver and Lawrence Counties in Pennsylvania and Hancock County, West Virginia. The survey asks questions about their experiences during the evacuation, concerns about exposures and health symptoms, including stress.

Residents’ responses will give the research team insight on the experiences and health symptoms they have been facing since the incident.

The release notes that this survey is the first part of a long-term research study to assess the potential lingering health effects from the toxic chemicals released and formed from the derailment and the subsequent controlled burn of chemicals.

“I have worked with Dr. Haynes for over 10 years on several environmental health projects,” Amanda Kiger, resident of East Palestine, said in the release. “We are excited to see this much-needed health survey launch. The community needs this long-term follow up to assess their health over time.”

Haynes is also the Kurt W. Deuschle Professor of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health, director of the UK Center for the Environment and deputy director of the UK Center for Appalachian Research in Environmental Sciences (UK-CARES).

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