EAST PALESTINE, OH | February 7, 2023
The American Lung Association urges all residents to follow guidance from on-site emergency personnel such as local police and emergency coordinators, and instructions on the radio or television broadcast system. The organization is also providing tips and heath information to the public regarding this incident.
Smoke from the fire, which has been burning for four days, can cause an increase in particle pollution in the area. Particle pollution, often referred to as PM or soot, refers to a mix of tiny solid and liquid particles that are in the air we breathe and can cause a variety of health harms. In addition, the harmful chemicals or gases that escape into the air when an industrial accident like this occurs can be harmful or possibly fatal to nearby individuals—which is why it is so critical that evacuation orders be promptly followed.
To help residents protect their health, the Lung Association released the following health tips:
- Follow advice to evacuate when directed and stay away until the evacuation order is lifted: Smoke from the derailment site can include gases, chemicals and soot pollution that can pose life-threatening harm. Wind direction changes and can blow those contaminants far from the original site. Listen to public health and emergency direction to know about steps to take to protect yourself and your family.
- Don't count on a mask: Dust masks, designed only to filter out particles, do not provide adequate protection. Ordinary dust masks allow gases and the more dangerous smaller particles to pass through. Although special, more expensive dust masks with true HEPA filters or N-95 masks will filter out some damaging fine particles, they may not fit properly, won't protect against harmful gases and are difficult for people with lung disease to use.
- Keep an eye on symptoms: Higher levels of smoke, gases or chemicals can make breathing more difficult. If you are experiencing new or worsening symptoms, contact your healthcare provider. Seek emergency care if symptoms are severe, such as difficult or painful breathing. The first symptoms can appear as late as 24 hours or even days after exposure.
- Special considerations for people living with chronic lung disease: People living with certain medical conditions like asthma, COPD or cardiovascular disease may be at higher risk for health effects. Specifically, people with asthma or COPD should follow their asthma action plan or COPD action plan developed with their healthcare provider and report any worsening of symptoms promptly. Living with any chronic lung disease may put you at risk for new or worsening respiratory symptoms and it is important to avoid exposure whenever possible and pay close attention to your symptoms.
- Ask for help. The American Lung Association’s Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) is staffed by nurses and respiratory therapists and is a free resource to answer any questions about the lungs, lung disease and lung health, including how to protect your lungs during emergency situations.
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