The organization I work for, the Center for Health, Environment & Justice, has worked with communities affected by dioxins for over 40 years. We have seen the impact of exposure to dioxins in communities from Love Canal and Times Beach to Pensacola, Florida. And now, we are asking, why isn’t EPA testing for dioxins in East Palestine, Ohio? Are dioxins present in the soil downwind from the site of the accident?
At a townhall meeting in East Palestine last week, people talked about what it was like when the black cloud reached their property. One person who lived 15 miles away described burned ash material from the fire that settled on her property. Another who lived 3 miles away described how the black cloud completely smothered his property. Repeatedly people asked: was it safe for my kids to play in the yard? Is it safe to grow a garden? What is going to happen to my farm animals?
These are important questions that deserve to be answered. Today there are no clear answers. Why? Because no one has done any testing for dioxins anywhere in East Palestine. No one. And, it seems, that the EPA is uninterested in testing for dioxins, behaving as though dioxin is no big deal.
This makes no sense. Testing for dioxin, a highly toxic substance, should have been one of the first things to look for, especially in the air once the decision was made to burn the vinyl chloride. There is no question that dioxins were formed in the vinyl chloride fire. They would have formed on the particulate matter – the black soot – in the cloud that was so clearly visible at the time of the burn. Now, the question is how much is in the soil where people live in and around East Palestine. Without testing, no one will know and the people who live there will remain in the dark, uncertain about their fate.
This is important because of the adverse health effects associated with exposure to dioxins. Exposure to dioxins can cause cancer, reproductive damage, developmental problems, type 2 diabetes, ischemic heart disease, infertility in adults, impairment of the immune system and skin lesions.