Residents in East Palestine ‘May Already Be Undergoing DNA Mutations,’ Lawyer Alleges

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A lawyer representing plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit after the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, alleged that some residents of the town may “already be undergoing DNA mutations” after the incident earlier this month.

“I’m not sure Norfolk Southern could have come up with a worse plan to address this disaster,” said attorney John Morgan, who is representing plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit, in reference to the train operator. “Residents exposed to vinyl chloride may already be undergoing DNA mutations that could linger for years or even decades before manifesting as terrible and deadly cancers.”

Their “lawsuit alleges that Norfolk Southern made it worse by essentially blasting the town with chemicals as they focused on restoring train service and protecting their shareholders,” Morgan told local media WFMJ-TV as well as USA Today this week. Morgan did not provide specific evidence for his claims regarding DNA mutations.

The latest lawsuit was filed Wednesday his law firm Morgan & Morgan in U.S. District Court’s Northern District of Ohio. It’s one of six suits that Norfolk Southern now faces after the train derailment earlier this month, according to the outlet.

It contends that “Norfolk Southern blew holes in its vinyl chloride cars, and dumped 1,109,400 pounds of cancer causing vinyl chloride directly into the environment,” reported the paper. Additionally, the lawsuit argues Norfolk Southern released more vinyl chloride—a highly toxic chemical—into the air than all industrial emitters did in 2021.

According to the federal National Cancer Institute, vinyl chloride is used to make polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which is found in numerous plastic products—including plumbing. But “vinyl chloride exposure is associated with an increased risk of a rare form of liver cancer (hepatic angiosarcoma), as well as primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma), brain and lung cancers, lymphoma, and leukemia,” its website says.

A research paper released in 2007 published in the Journal of Human Genetics noted that vinyl chloride is a “human carcinogen that is known to undergo metabolism” in the liver that can ultimately “cause oncogene and tumor suppressor gene mutations.” And an introduction for the paper said the chemical is “a known animal and human carcinogen capable of damaging DNA.”

By Jack Phillips

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