The derailment of a Norfolk Southern train that spilled toxic chemicals and led to a controlled burn of the substances in East Palestine, Ohio, has become one of the highest-profile — and most politicized — incidents of its kind in the United States in recent years.
Frightened residents in the town of 4,700 have complained about various ailments in the weeks since the wreck, which took place on Feb. 3, and are worried about long-term health consequences. State and federal officials have said repeatedly that they have yet to detect dangerous levels of chemicals in the air or municipal water.
Some experts say that fully understanding the consequences of the accident requires a more comprehensive investigation — and more time to pass. But as residents wait, their efforts to process what happened have been complicated by political crossfire and misinformation.
Conservatives have been particularly critical of the derailment and the federal response, using the crisis to sow public distrust in government agencies. Some commentators have claimed a cover-up — despite widespread news media coverage — and many Republican politicians have accused the Biden administration of neglecting the community in the incident’s aftermath.