November 30, 2012 — NJ.com is reporting that a freight train derailed on a collapsed bridge at about 7 a.m. in Paulsboro, New Jersey. At least 3 cars are leaking chemicals into the air and waterways, including highly toxic vinyl chloride. At least 18 people at a marine terminal reported breathing problems and many more have arrived at local hospitals. Exposure to vinyl chloride, a highly toxic and flammable gas, can cause dizziness, drowsiness, headaches, and respiratory distress. Long-term exposure has been linked to cancer.
Hospital officials in the area said that 11 people were brought from the scene of the accident and treated for injuries. Another 17 people came in on their own, all complaining of respiratory problems. The injured include residents and rescue workers.
Three cars overturned on the bridge and were leaking toxic chemicals into the Mantua Creek. One car contained vinyl chloride, and the other two contained unknown chemicals. The train is owned by CSX, which deployed an environmental team to place booms in the creek. The Gloucester HazMat team are monitoring levels of the chemical in the area.
Students at a nearby high school and two elementary schools were being kept in lockdown until authorities issued further instructions.
The same bridge collapsed in August 2009 when a 50-car coal train passed over it, spilling 16 cars into the water. Mantuna Creek flows into the Delaware River.
Vinyl chloride is a colorless gas with a sweet smell that is highly flammable and toxic. It is heavier than air and may travel along the ground. People who are exposed to the chemical may suffer irritation of the eyes or threat, headache, or shortness of breath. Breathing high levels can cause dizziness, sleepiness, loss of consciousness, and even death.
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