Protecting Yourself, Your Loved Ones in the Face of a Chemical Disaster

The Ohio train crash on Feb. 3 highlights an essential fact of modern life that we all need to be prepared for: Our world runs, in large part, on toxic chemicals that we may inevitably be exposed to, either through the intentional use of everyday products or accidental exposures such as the derailed train that was carrying a variety of chemical products to Conway, Pennsylvania, from Madison, Illinois.

People living in the area surrounding East Palestine, Ohio, where about 50 cars derailed, are now contending with hazardous materials including vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate, and isobutylene. At this point, it’s important that three things happen: that the chemicals are cleaned up, that long-term monitoring ensures the health effects linked to the spill are recognized and treated, and that those now exposed do everything they can to help their body contend with the chemical soup that has crashed into their local environment.

The chemicals that leaked are used to make PVC, rubber, paint, and other chemical-based products. Millions of gallons of hazardous chemicals were spilled as a result of this crash. Reports of chemical residues are being found hundreds of miles from the incident. People are finding dead pets, chickens, and fish in local waterways. Some have experienced symptoms of acute chemical exposure.

Vinyl chloride is a known carcinogen and has been associated with liver cancer. It’s of particular concern when it burns because it decomposes to gases that include hydrogen chloride, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and phosgene.

The Ohio Emergency Management Agency created a controlled explosion by releasing and burning the chemicals in an attempt to control the hazardous materials. Exposure to these gases can produce damaging reactive oxygen species, particularly hydroxyl radicals that wreak havoc on the body and impair mitochondrial function.

From a health perspective, even people living far beyond Ohio should be concerned about this incident and should support their bodies accordingly. It’s difficult to know the various toxic compounds that were released into the air, water, and soil in these areas and how far these residues will carry by wind and water.

These chemicals are hazardous to human health and can be absorbed through our lungs, digestive tracts, and skin. The extent of possible risk depends on the concentrations of contaminants and the length of exposure. Keep in mind, even low levels of exposure to toxic compounds can cause cancer, hinder the immune system, fuel inflammation, disrupt endocrine function, and damage the brain.

Signs of Acute Chemical Exposure

  • Tearing eyes
  • Burning of the eyes, nose, throat, chest, and/or skin
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Blurred vision
  • Stomach aches
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Feeling faint or weak
  • Inebriation

If you were knowingly exposed to hazardous materials or want to proactively support your body, there are various ways to support the body in a holistic way. None of this should be taken as direct medical advice; please check with your preferred provider to help you understand what strategies are right for you and your loved ones.


Supplementing with antioxidants is important for helping to scavenge damaging free radicals. Glutathione is known as the body’s master antioxidant and is naturally produced within the body. Supplementing with a liposomal form is generally best absorbed.

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a precursor to glutathione and is sometimes better tolerated. Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) is also an excellent antioxidant to neutralize hydroxyl radicals.

Support the Liver

The liver is one of the primary detoxification organs, and certain supplements can help it do its job. Calcium d-glucarate helps facilitate phase two detoxification in the liver called glucuronidation. Milk thistle can reduce oxidative stress and free radical damage in the liver. As a bonus, these supplements also help the liver detox estrogens appropriately and foster healthy cholesterol levels.

Open Pathways of Elimination

In addition to the liver, making sure the body’s other pathways of elimination, such as the colon, kidneys, skin, lungs, lymphatic system, and glymphatic system are functioning well helps safely rid the body of toxins.

If these pathways aren’t functioning, it will be difficult for the body to safely detox because there will be no place for the toxins to go. Some ways to open up drainage pathways are:

  • Hydrating with clean water and mineral-rich beverages to flush the kidneys
  • Breathing through the nose with the diaphragm maximizes the oxygen delivered to the body
  • Exposing yourself to the morning sun as these drainage pathways are connected with your circadian rhythm
  • Consuming a clean, mineral-rich diet with plenty of fiber
  • Ensuring at least one to three daily bowel movements
  • Using coffee enemas to upregulate glutathione production and cleanse the liver and bile ducts
  • Encouraging lymph flow through the body through dry skin brushing, lymphatic massage, rebounding, and exercise
  • Castor oil packs over the liver, intestines, and/or colon
  • Managing stress

Binding Agents

Taking systemic binding agents such as humic and fulvic acids, micronized zeolite clinoptilolite, bentonite clay, and charcoal are effective in detoxifying hazardous materials such as vinyl chloride, dioxins, phosgene gas, benzenes, phthalates, plastics, and so forth. The substances can bind to toxic compounds and help the body expel them.

Support Your Barriers

Barrier integrity is crucial for safeguarding the body from toxins. It’s important to support the gut, brain, and lung barriers when exposed to toxins.

  • Gut:  l-glutamine, deglycyrrhizinated Licorice, aloe, marshmallow root, slippery elm, curcumin, prebiotics, and probiotics all strengthen the integrity of the intestinal barrier.
  • Brain: Having a blood-brain barrier dysfunction, or “leaky brain,” is associated with intestinal hyperpermeability or “leaky gut,” so it’s wise to bolster both. Resveratrol, curcumin, omega 3 fatty acids, B vitamins, vitamin D, magnesium, and sulforaphane that are found in cruciferous vegetables can aid blood-brain barrier integrity.
  • Lung: Similar to a leaky gut and leaky brain, the delicate lining of the lungs can also become permeable. This happens when microscopic holes in the lungs allow inhaled particles to penetrate the lung tissue itself, making their way into the body cavity and causing an immune response. Nebulizing proper forms of glutathione along with taking immune-modulating compounds such as curcumin, resveratrol, omega-3 fatty acids, and maintaining proper vitamin D levels are important for adequate support.

Air Purification

Make sure you have a quality air purifier in your home environment to remove airborne particles as small as 0.003 microns in size. Change your HVAC system filter and air purifier filters on a regular basis. Additionally, if you live near one of these train crashes, it would be advisable to leave town until it’s safe to return.

Water Purification

All water in your environment must be filtered with activated carbon treatment whether it comes from the tap or well. This includes drinking water and water for bathing. There are filters that can be attached to shower and bath spigots to ensure bathing water is safe. For more information about your local water, you can get it tested locally or use a service such as


It’s difficult to know how these chemical exposures will affect the food supply in the long term due to contaminated soils. In the short term, don’t eat fresh eggs, produce, or other foods directly exposed to toxins.


Sweating helps the body eliminate toxins of various kinds. If you can afford a sauna, get one and use it frequently while replenishing electrolytes. Aim for 15 to 20 minutes of deep abdominal sweating. You can also achieve therapeutic sweating by raising your internal body temp with physical activity or appropriate sun exposure.

Since we don’t know what the long-term effects of this widespread toxin exposure will be, be wise and prudent, advocating for yourself and your loved ones!

Additional Reading

Unknown Chemical Exposure

Dr. Ashley Turner is a traditionally trained naturopath and board-certified doctor of holistic health for Restorative Wellness Center. As an expert in functional medicine, Dr. Ashley is the author of the gut-healing guide “Restorative Kitchen” and “Restorative Traditions,” a cookbook comprised of non-inflammatory holiday recipes.
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