Health concerns remain after Ohio train derailment. Graphic: MGN Online

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has so far ignored testing toxic pollutants that could have been released into the air, soil, and water around East Palestine village in Ohio, nearly a month after a train crashed and spewed toxic chemicals.

In February, a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in East Palestine and exploded, spewing chemicals into the environment. In order to avoid a catastrophic explosion, the town’s authorities released and burnt the contents of five tankers full of vinyl chloride which creates ‘Dioxin’.

“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,” said Stephen Lester, science director for the Center for Health, Environment & Justice.

According to a report by the Guardian, one of the residents who lived 15 miles away described burned ash material from the fire that settled on her property. The key point is that without a test, no one will understand if they are affected by dioxin.


While EPA officials said monitoring for related chemicals around East Palestine suggests a “low probability” of dioxin contamination, Administrator Michael Regan said the agency is directing the railroad to conduct testing for the pollutants based on concerns from the community.

Testing dioxin “is important because of the adverse health effects associated with exposure to dioxins that can cause cancer, reproductive damage, developmental problems, Type 2 diabetes, ischemic heart disease, infertility in adults, impairment of the immune system and skin lesions,” Lester said.

“Why is EPA unwilling to test for dioxins in the soil? My guess is because they know they will find it. And if they find it, they’ll have to address the many questions people are asking. It will not be easy to interpret the results of the testing for dioxins in soil, but to avoid testing is irresponsible,” she added.

If dioxins are found at a level that poses any unacceptable risk to human health and the environment, EPA will direct the immediate cleanup of the area as needed. Experts warn that it will likely take years to complete the cleanup of East Palestine—if it can ever be considered truly complete.

A chorus of academics, environmentalists, and residents have been raising the alarm over the potential dioxin contamination because, days after the derailment, authorities seeking to avoid an explosion, purposefully released and burned the chemical vinyl chloride, a key component of PVC plastic.

Dioxins are produced when burning anything from wood and fossil fuels to municipal waste and cigarettes. Combustion releases chlorine stored in those substances, which reacts with other compounds to form dioxins.

Dioxins are linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, and immune system damage. They are particularly troublesome toxins because they are slow to break down in the environment and also build up in the food chain. The EPA said most human exposure to dioxins in the United States is tied to releases that occurred decades ago. (