Some of the worst environmental disasters of the past 50 years

From the Chernobyl nuclear disaster to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, these are some of the worst environmental disasters of the past 50 years.

A radioactivity sign in Chernobyl, Ukraine.
Efrem Lukatsky / AP

The chemical spill following a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, has led to concerns about contamination in the water, air and soil. The spill has drawn comparisons to other environmental disasters, despite government officials saying testing has shown that municipal water is safe to drink and the air is clean.

Here's a look at other environmental disasters from the past 50 years:

Residents gather in a high school gym in East Palenstine, Ohio, to ask officials questions.

Residents demand answers from officials after Ohio train derailment

Unsure if their water or air is safe, area residents unloaded on public officials during a town hall meeting in East Palestine.


Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, 1985

The Chornobyl nuclear incident in Ukraine is likely the most well-known environmental disaster. In 1986, an explosion at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant released a large amount of radioactive material into the atmosphere. More than 30 people died immediately following the explosion and tens of thousands of people in the region were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation. While the long-term health issues are still being studied, it's believed that the disaster led to an increase in cancer and other ailments. The area surrounding the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant is still considered uninhabitable.

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, 1989

The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in March 1989 when an oil tanker ran around in Alaska. It's estimated that the tanker spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into the ocean. Thousands of birds and marine animals died because of the spill. Exxon reportedly paid about $4 billion for the cleanup and habitat restoration efforts. However, many environmentalists claim the effects of the spill are still being felt today.

Baia Mare Cyanide Spill, 2010

The cyanide spill in Baia Mare, Romania is considered one of the worst environmental disasters Europe has ever experienced. In January 2000, the failure of a dam at a gold mine caused the release of water containing high levels of cyanide into the nearby Somes River. It quickly spread downstream, killing a large amount of aquatic life. Dozens of people were reportedly hospitalized after eating contaminated fish from the river.

Deepwater Oil Spill, 2010

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was an environmental disaster that began with an explosion on a BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Eleven workers were killed in the explosion that sent about 5 million barrels of oil into the ocean over 87 days. The spill devastated marine and wildlife habitats in the Gulf. BP and its partners reportedly spent about $70 billion on cleanup costs over 10 years.

Black plume of smoke from a train derailment rises over East Palestine, Ohio.

Families wondering if well water is safe after Ohio train derailment

The Ohio EPA said it has not seen anything at this point to suggest private wells would be impacted, but East Palestine residents aren't so sure.