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Train derailment results in release of hazardous chemical

A recent train derailment forced thousands of residents evacuate their homes. The evacuation was ordered when officials realized that the train was transporting a payload of hazardous material and that the train had caught fire after it derailed.

In total, about 5,000 people were removed from their homes when the evacuation order was given. All of those people resided within a mile and a half radius of the train crash site. The majority of those residents were informed of the evacuation order by frantic emergency workers who ran from door to door knocking as loudly as they could to wake the residents.

The hazardous payload that the train was carrying was liquid acrylonitrile. The chemical, which is used in numerous applications across a wide berth of industries, is highly volatile and flammable in its liquid form. Additionally, it also poses a danger to people if they inhale it. According to the EPA, common symptoms wrought about by acrylonitrile inhalation are headaches and rapid heartbeat, as well as dizziness and possible irritability.

In total, 87 people had to be taken to the hospital for various health concerns, and of that, 36 had to be admitted. Fortunately, none of the injuries were life threatening. Mostly they were a mixture of skin irritation, nausea and the occasional respiratory ailment. After extensive testing to ensure that the air did not harbor any contaminants that posed a safety concern for the residents close to the crash site, residents were allowed to return back to their homes.

For its part CSX has offered to fully reimburse residents any expenses that they may have incurred as a result of the evacuation. Though air sample testing has indicated that no contaminants that pose a health hazard are present in the air, officials have not been able to confirm the same for the local area's underground well water supply. In the meantime residents have been instructed to refrain from using local well water until testing has been completed.

When people suffer injuries from a train accident, they can pursue legal claims against the railroad company and possibly other parties. In this case, nobody suffered serious injuries, but that is the exception when it comes to train accidents.

Source: NBC News, "Officials Life Evacuation After CSX Train Derailment in Tennessee," July 3, 2015

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