Ohio train derailment with toxic chemicals raises safety concerns

The fiery derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals – sending a huge plume of smoke in the air and forcing residents of a small Ohio town to evacuate – has highlighted the potentially disastrous consequences of train accidents and raised questions about railroad safety.

The railroad industry is generally regarded as the safest option for most goods and federal data show accidents involving hazardous materials are exceedingly rare. But with rails crossing through the heart of nearly every city and town nationwide, even one hazardous materials accident could be disastrous, especially in a populated area.

Rail unions believe the industry has gotten riskier in recent years after widespread job cuts left workers spread thin.

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