Update as of 2/16/23 9:30 AM
The train derailment and subsequent chemical spill and fire in East Palestine, Ohio, released dangerous chemicals into the environment that could pose a health hazard to those individuals exposed.
East Palestine sits approximately 50 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. Due to the relative proximity of the fire to the Pittsburgh area and the University of Pittsburgh campus, we have been closely monitoring county, state and federal response measures and updates to assess potential risks to our campus community.
The primary mechanism for chemical exposure from the train fire to individuals on or near the Pittsburgh campus would have been from emissions from the fire, which dispersed chemicals into the atmosphere. The maximum exposure to chemical pollutants would have occurred during the active fire and for those individuals closest to and in the path of the resulting plume.
Local, state and federal officials have closely monitored conditions and issued alerts or evacuations for those areas potentially affected. They have also tracked air quality results across the region. The University’s Pittsburgh campus was not in an impacted area during the burn, and air quality monitoring did not detect any significant levels of chemicals from the fire.
Based on this information—and supported by the results of extensive air quality testing in the region—we believe that there was no discernible risk of chemical exposure—during or since the burn event—for our Pittsburgh campus location.
Cleanup efforts in and around East Palestine are ongoing, and air quality monitoring efforts will continue throughout the region. At Pitt, we will continue to monitor this situation closely in the weeks and months to come.
We understand the importance of having accurate and timely information during an event that poses potential health risks to the public, including to those on our campus. Therefore, we have generated a short list of reliable resources (see below) for interested members of our community.
Safety remains a key priority for the University, and we will continue to post information about this incident and any potential hazards to our community on our Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management website. For students, faculty or staff with questions about the University’s work in this area, please do not hesitate to contact Keith Duval, who serves as our associate director for environmental programs.
Concerned about the East Palestine train derailment and its environmental fallout? Consider these resources.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency East Palestine Train Derailment hub offers daily updates, frequently asked questions, roving air monitoring results and more.
Allegheny County Air Quality Map, maintained by the county’s health department, shows the air quality index for select pollutants. The train derailment has had no impact on the air quality in Allegheny County.
EnviroFlash Map shares air quality forecasts from across the continental United States.