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Tipsheet

Why Are We Just Finding Out CDC Officials 'Fell Ill' While Investigating East Palestine Derailment?

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

In early February, after a Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio sent toxic chemicals into the town's air and water, public officials at the federal and state level were swift to tell local residents that their town was safe — all while also urging testing of private wells and checking air quality inside homes. 

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The derailed train spilled vinyl chloride, ethyl acrylate, and isobutylene into the ground and — following a "controlled" burn — into the air. Burning vinyl chloride — as was done in East Palestine — can release dioxins into the air as well. All those hazardous materials are toxic and can — if a person is exposed enough — prove to be carcinogenic. 

Despite a delayed and widely criticized response from the Biden administration, authorities from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) arrived to assist. Public officials, as Townhall reported at the time, made shows of drinking the city's water in front of the press, renewing their insistence that East Palestine remained safe for those who live there. 

But now, weeks later, the CDC is admitting that "multiple investigators in East Palestine, Ohio, fell ill while studying possible health impacts from the train derailment last month." How about that.

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The story was first reported by CNN and then confirmed by ABC News and other outlets, raising more questions about what the Biden administration — and other public health officials knew — and how they decided what to tell residents and when.

As ABC News reported on Monday: 

First reported by CNN and confirmed by ABC News, seven investigators from the CDC and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry -- part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services -- started experiencing symptoms.

"On March 6, seven members of a 15-person CDC/ATSDR team conducting Assessment of Chemical Exposure (ACE) surveys of East Palestine residents reported symptoms, including sore throat, headache, coughing and nausea," the CDC told ABC News in a statement.

According to the federal health agency, these symptoms are consistent with what residents and other first responders have described in the door-to-door ACE surveys.

The CDC said the seven people immediately reported their symptoms to federal safety officers.

"Symptoms resolved for most team members later the same afternoon, and everyone resumed work on survey data collection within 24 hours. Impacted team members have not reported ongoing health effects," the statement read.

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ABC News was careful to note in its report that it is "unclear if the investigators' symptoms came from the toxic chemicals that had been released into the environment, but it comes after government officials and Norfolk Southern representatives repeatedly guaranteed the air and drinking water was safe." 

What are the odds that investigators in a town where a toxic spill had caused residents to report similar symptoms would come down with an unrelated illness?

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