Toxic chemical released from Ohio derailment will not contaminate Maine snow

Published: Feb. 23, 2023 at 6:26 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - The derailment and subsequent explosion of a train carrying hazardous chemicals in Eastern Ohio has sparked questions here in Maine.

Among the chemicals released was a gas known as vinyl chloride.

UMaine associate chemistry professor William Gramlich says the chemical is used in producing stable plastics like PVC pipes and vinyl siding.

It’s also a carcinogen in its gaseous form.

Gramlich confirmed Mainers should be able to interact with incoming snow without fear that it’s contaminated from the explosion.

He says the chemical is in our homes, but not in its toxic state.

“We don’t interact with that on a day-to-day basis,” Gramlich said. “The plastic, we have in our houses, but it doesn’t actually have that chemical at the time. It’s gone, it’s been transformed at that point.

“[Rails carrying hazardous chemicals are] probably more common than people think. Rails, from my understanding, are a pretty common way to ship chemicals. It tends to be safer than trucks. One would hope they’ve developed a safe way to transport through that,” Gramlich said.

Gramlich is leading studies at UMaine to develop more sustainable plastics made from trees or wood that are safer in events like these.