Lauren C. Moye, FISM News
Citizens of East Palestine, Ohio continue to report concerning symptoms of chemical exposure like bronchitis that sometimes require advanced testing not available in the town, 25 days after a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous material derailed in their town.
“Doctors say I definitely have the chemicals in me but there’s no one in town who can run the toxicological tests to find out which ones they are,” Wade Lovett, a 40-year-old auto detailer, told the New York Post.
His voice has been altered since the incident, Lovett said: “My voice sounds like Mickey Mouse. My normal voice is low. It’s hard to breathe, especially at night.”
Lovett’s bronchitis-like illness has prevented him from working and he has now lost his job.
Others are struggling, like workers at the manufacturing company CeramFab who suspended work for nearly a week after the incident. However, five of the ten workers are now too sick to work, general manager Howard Yang told NBC news.
Yang described symptoms as rashes, nausea, vomiting, nose bleeds, and bronchitis.
“Chemical bronchitis” has been a frequent diagnosis by area doctors.
Biden ordered a door-to-door health survey of East Palestine households, the White House said on Monday. So far, they have visited roughly 400 households in the area, but the results have not yet been announced.
Meanwhile, Ohio Senators JD Vance, Republican, and Sherrod Brown, Democrat, requested yesterday that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) perform long-term health monitoring for East Palestine residents. This monitoring should begin with establishing a baseline of health.
“We have spoken with multiple constituents who have attempted to get this kind of baseline testing done by their primary care doctors, only to learn that their local doctors lack the capabilities,” Vance and Brown wrote.
They added that residents of the disaster area “deserve to know if their health has been compromised” in the years to come.
On Feb. 3, a Norfolk South train carrying hazardous material derailed with a car on fire. In the clean-up process, responders performed a controlled burn of vinyl chloride that created a black plume of smoke in the air.
Residents were initially evacuated but were then cleared to return to the area after the EPA assured them that it was safe. Within days, residents began reporting illnesses and animal deaths. Now, 25 days later, residents are still struggling with mystery illnesses.
DIOXIN POLLUTANT CONCERNS
In the aftermath of the testing and clean-up, fears that dioxins might now be present in the air and soil surrounding East Palestine have become a chief concern. While the EPA has conducted testing in the area and said that it is safe, some environmentalists have noted that no testing for dioxin was done.
Dioxins are a chemical class that can form when organic chemicals burn and are a possible result of the controlled burn of vinyl chloride performed after the train derailment. They can linger in the soil — which could lead to future health problems if nearby farms plant in contaminated earth — and can cause cancer and other long-term health concerns.
Despite this noted risk by atmospheric chemists who spoke to the Ohio-based WTAE, the EPA has refused to test for the toxins.
The Ohio Senators also penned a joint letter to ask for dioxin testing on Feb. 18. The letter requested a response by Feb. 24.
On Feb. 23, WTAE reported that community members asked environmental and health experts questions about the toxic pollutants in an informational meeting. However, the experts said the EPA still hadn’t tested.
On Feb. 27, Ohio-based WKBN news reported the EPA had declined to test for dioxins.
“Dioxins are ubiquitous in the environment. They were here before the accident, they will be here after, and we don’t have baseline information in this area to do a proper test. But, we are talking to our toxicologist and looking into it,” EPA Region 5 administrator Debra Shore said to WKBN.
Shore said that without baseline information caused by wildfires and backyard grilling, the tests would be pointless. Experts have pushed back on that reasoning.
“I think they’re reluctant to test because they know they will find it, and they will be put in a place where they have to address it,” Stephn Lester, science director at the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice, said to WKBN.
Lester was also present as an expert at the Feb. 23 informational meeting.