Biden Orders Door-to-Door Health Surveys After Rail Disaster

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(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden instructed federal agents responding to the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, to go door-to-door to conduct health surveys with impacted families, a White House official said Monday.

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Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention visited approximately 350 household over the weekend, according to the official, who described the effort on the condition of anonymity. The government has been distributing fliers detailing available federal resource and hopes to reach an additional 50 families on Monday.

Biden has so far opted against visiting the site of the fiery crash and chemical explosion, instead dispatching Cabinet members and emergency response workers. That decision has come under criticism from leading Republicans, with former President Donald Trump - who has announced his 2024 presidential campaign - visiting the town last week and distributing fast food and water.

Biden has defended his administration’s response, noting to reporters on Friday that federal officials were on the ground within hours of the Feb. 3 derailment of a Norfolk Southern Corp. train carrying toxic chemicals.

“I’m keeping very close tabs on it. We’re doing all we can,” he said. “The idea that we’re not engaged is just simply not there.”

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The White House has also challenged Republicans - who rolled back proposed rail-safety measures during the Trump administration - to support legislative changes that would toughen fines for safety violations and strengthen hazardous shipment regulations.

In addition to this weekend’s door-to-door effort, federal officials have so far screened 550 homes in the area and are monitoring the air and water quality in East Palestine, the White House said.

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