January 25, 2024 

New FOIA Request with CDC Seeking Records on East Palestine Train Derailment Response and Potential Health Impacts 

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) seeking records regarding CDC’s response to the February 3 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio and related potential health impacts on the community there.  

Specifically, the submitted FOIA request on January 24 asked for communications and data related to cancer screenings, biomonitoring sampling, and directives by the CDC to health officials to discontinue or discourage testing of residents for vinyl chloride metabolites or other chemicals spilled or burned on the derailed train cars. The FOIA request also seeks information regarding reports of CDC personnel falling ill while working in East Palestine since the derailment. Key information being requested also includes records regarding a meeting in which a CDC doctor told East Palestine residents that early detection of cancers caused by vinyl chloride is key. “We may not know how to get rid of vinyl chloride from the body – but we know how to treat those cancers,” Dr. Arthur Chang told residents.   

The request covers the timeframe from February 3rd through December 31st, 2023. 

Additionally, multiple residents told us that doctors refused to provide biomonitoring for train derailment chemicals as early as March 1. This directive to discourage biomonitoring was wildly premature due to the horrific symptoms suffered by residents almost a year after the derailment and controlled burning of vinyl chloride and other carcinogenic chemicals. Independent scientist Scott Smith found elevations in dioxins in and around homes and businesses in the community and a growing number of independent scientists remain concerned that residents are still being exposed to dangerous chemicals in East Palestine. 

The FOIA filing also requests information regarding the CDC response team members who became ill after working in East Palestine. “CDC officials were experiencing the same symptoms as residents. At the same time, the Environmental Protection Agency was saying they found no detections of chemicals of concern. Residents deserve to know the full extent of what happened to these workers because the illnesses counter the narrative that everything was safe.” 

Lesley Pacey, Environmental Investigator, commented: 

“Documents obtained by our organization show that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), an agency of the CDC, distributed an undated memo shortly after the derailment to regional poison control discouraging health providers from testing East Palestine residents for biomarkers of vinyl chloride and 2-butoxyethal acetate. It is unclear when the memo was sent, but news reports covered it as early as June 2023.” 

Contact: Andrew Harman, Government Accountability Project Communications Director 

Email: [email protected] 

Phone: 202.926.3304 


Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.