How Vinyl Chloride, the Chemical in the Ohio Train Derailment and Used to Make PVC Plastics, Can Damage Your Liver

Juliane I. Beier

Vinyl chloride – the chemical in several of the train cars that derailed and burned in East Palestine, Ohio, in February 2023 – can wreak havoc on the human liver.

It has been shown to cause liver cancer, as well as a nonmalignant liver disease known as TASH, or toxicant-associated steatohepatitis. With TASH, the livers of otherwise healthy people can develop the same fat accumulation, inflammation and scarring (fibrosis and cirrhosis) as people who have cirrhosis from alcohol or obesity.

That kind of damage typically requires relatively high levels of vinyl chloride exposure – the kind an industrial worker might experience on the job.

However, exposures to lower environmental concentrations are still a concern. That’s in part because little is known about the impact low-level exposure might have on liver health, especially for people with underlying liver disease and other risks.

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