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Residents evacuated after chemical spill sue railroad

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Four residents of Maryville in Blount County, Tennessee, have filed a $5 million class action lawsuit against railroad CSX Transportation Inc., and Union Tank Car Co.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee in Knoxville, was filed by four residents who were evacuated from their homes when a train car carrying the toxic chemical acrylonitrile derailed after midnight on July 2 and caught fire.

When on fire, the combustion caused by acrylonitrile produces hydrogen cyanide gas, which can be rapidly fatal if inhaled, according to court documents.

Police went to the homes in the area and evacuated over 5,000 people within a two mile radius of the derailment. They were not allowed to return home until the evening of July 3.

The plaintiffs in the suit, Charles Tipton and Billy Tipton, both inhaled fumes and smoke from the accident. Both Tiptons and Travis and Elizabeth Pruett are filing on behalf of themselves and on behalf of others who were evacuated and suffered from the experience.

Acrylonitrile has been classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a probable human carcinogen. Short-term exposure via inhalation causes mucous membrane irritation, headache, nausea, and convulsions. Long term exposure can cause lung cancer, according to court documents of the EPA.