At least 5,000 people were evacuated after a Tennessee train partly derailed on Thursday morning and released a potentially toxic gas into the air, according to officials. NBC News is reporting that one car on a freight train traveling through Maryville in eastern Tennessee derailed after midnight on Thursday, sending thousands of residents to local emergency rooms for evaluation. Railroad officials told NBC News that the fire was triggered when a rail car reportedly derailed, igniting nearby loads of Acrylonitrile. According to the Environmental Protection Agency website, Acrylonitrile is a toxic chemical used in plastics manufacturing. CSX spokeswoman Kristin Seay described the material to NBC News as "highly flammable" and a potential inhalation risk for workers and residents in the area.
Marian O'Briant, spokeswoman for the Blount County Sheriff's Office, told a local news station that seven officers working close to the scene have been hospitalized after inhaling fumes from the train fire. According to O'Briant, officials are mounting a massive evacuation of homes and businesses within two miles of the derailment, translating to around 5,000 Maryville residents. The evacuation zone will remain in place for at least 48 hours, O'Briant said.
The CSX train was traveling from Cincinnati, Ohio to Waycross, Georgia and carrying at least two rail cars of Acrylonitrile, according to Seay.
What Is Acrylonitrile Used For?
Acrylonitrile is a colorless, flammable liquid often used in the manufacturing of plastics and acrylic fibers. The EPA website lists several industrial uses for acrylonitirile, including use in business machines, construction material, automotive or household goods, nylons, and pesticides.
What Are The Symptoms of Acrylonitrile Exposure?
The EPA website states that ambient exposure to the chemical can cause a range of symptoms, including headaches, nausea, irritation to the mucous membranes, and kidney irritation. Inhaling the chemical for even a short amount of time can cause changes in the nervous system, the blood, the kidneys, and the liver. The EPA says that the symptoms usually clear up once the person is no longer exposed to the gas.
How Many Residents Have Been Exposed To The Fumes?
O'Briant told local news station WBIR that seven Maryville officers are receiving treatment at a local hospital after showing signs of gas exposure. The officers had been working close to the scene of the accident and as part of the evacuation team. According to a tweet by the local NBC station, CSX has confirmed that no one else was injured in the train derailment.