New study uses wristbands to collect data on chemical exposure from East Palestine derailment

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — All this week, about 75 people will be wearing special wristbands that are collecting data for a long-term health study on potential chemical exposure from the East Palestine train derailment.

“It’s just a normal silicon wristband like you might have for a sporting event,” said Misti Allison.

Misti Allison will be wearing one of the wristbands for a total of seven days.

“I’m a firm believer that knowledge is power and that you can really only know what’s going on if you are testing and looking,” said Misti.

This mom of two lives about a mile from the derailment site in East Palestine.  She says her family had respiratory symptoms.  Her 8-year-old son had really bad nose bleeds too.

“You wonder is this correlation with it being winter in Ohio when the train derailment initially happened or is it causation with something underlying in the environment,” said Allison.

The University of Kentucky Center for Appalachian Research in Environmental Science is behind this research. So far, about 300 people in East Palestine and surrounding counties such as Beaver and Lawrence have filled out the online survey portion of the study and 20 people, who live very close to the derailment site, have submitted blood and urine samples.

“Duke University is going to analyze PAHs [polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons] and dioxins,” said Dr. Erin Haynes.  “I don’t think that they level of dioxins in the air will be high enough to be measured so I don’t anticipate seeing that, but at least we will be screening.  Now in the 20 biological pilot study we are measuring metabolites of vinyl chloride and acrolein in urine and also looking at the albuterol acrylate metabolites. This is exploratory.  Very little research has been done on these chemicals in humans in the United States so this will be some of the first studies.”

Dr. Erin Haynes is a Professor and Chair of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the University of Kentucky.

“With the wristbands, it’s interesting,” said Haynes.  “We’re measuring PAHs which is from fire or burning so interestingly during this time we have the wildfires in Canada so I anticipate seeing a marker of wildfire smoke in these wristbands.”

She says she’s confident this study will add more information to the derailment story too.

“We want to know if these chemicals can still be measured in the body or if there’s another continuing source,” said Haynes.  “We know there was digging and that released probably potentially new exposure, so we want to help the community answer that question.”

Haynes says they want to be able to collect these samples to see if a bigger research study is warranted.

“To be able to detect what is going on in East Palestine long-term we need to be able to have some long-term and continuous health care monitoring and testing,” said Allison.  “So I am just hopeful and praying that Doctor Haynes is able to get some grant funding from federal entities such as the National Institutes of Health. I’m just hopeful that’s able to be done so we can know if it is safe to be here long-term.”

Allison truly hopes this study and these wristbands will reveal the answers they’ve been looking for.

“I am still nervous,” said Allison.  “Absolutely. I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t be.  My family loves living in East Palestine, and we do want to stay here in the long-term but only if it’s safe.  And really we’re only going to know what these long-term exposures are if we participate in some independent research like this but still every day, we’re asking ourselves if we’re making the right choice by being here, and we really hope that we are.”

Haynes says it’s going to take several months for the results of this study.  They’re still looking for more participants.  If you live in Columbiana, Mahoning, Stark, Carroll, Jefferson, Lawrence, Beaver or Hancock counties and are 18 years or older, you are invited to participate in a brief online survey.

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