Environmental health scientist Stephen Lester has expressed concerns about the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) reluctance to test for dioxins in the soil of East Palestine, Ohio, following a recent incident where vinyl chloride and other chemicals were burned.
In an article published in The Guardian, Lester explains that dioxins are toxic chemicals that are produced unintentionally as byproducts of industrial processes that use or burn chlorine.
Lester, who works with the Center for Health, Environment & Justice, argues that testing for dioxins should have been a priority in the aftermath of the incident.
He states that “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.”
Exposure to dioxins can lead to various adverse health effects, including cancer, reproductive damage, developmental problems, and immune system impairment.
“The adverse health effects associated with exposure to dioxins are serious and require immediate attention,” he warns.
The health scientist notes that the EPA has published multiple reports on the health effects of dioxin exposure and has a responsibility to protect the health of residents and ensure the safety of the environment.
He suggests that the EPA may be reluctant to test for dioxins in the soil because they know they will find them.
“The EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment. Clearly the situation in East Palestine is the place where EPA should follow its mission and do right by the people who live in this town. EPA must test the soil in East Palestine for dioxins,” he writes.
Lester emphasizes that the residents of East Palestine are concerned about the potential health effects of exposure to dioxins.
At a recent town hall meeting, people asked whether it was safe for their children to play in the yard, or grow a garden, and what would happen to their farm animals.
“These are important questions that deserve to be answered,” Lester says.
Without testing for dioxins, there are no clear answers to these questions.
Lester argues that “to avoid testing is irresponsible” and that the EPA must take action to protect the health of residents and ensure that the environment is safe.