Independent testing finds dangerous chemicals at East Palestine family’s farm

Published: May. 29, 2023 at 10:27 PM EDT
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EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WOIO) - It’s been almost four months since the catastrophic Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine but people are still getting sick and they’re still begging for answers.

Linda and Russell Murphy live a little under three miles from the train derailment site, so they didn’t qualify for any EPA testing. 19 News was there in early April when they took matters into their own hands.

“It’s like prying teeth,” Russell Murphy said. “You just can’t get answers.”

“My vision is blurry, I have almost like cognitive issues where I can’t remember stuff,” Linda Murphy said. “I’ve had a lot of shortness of breath, throat issues like if you drink something hot and you’ve burned your throat.”

19 News checked back in with the Murphy family on Monday and they’re still dealing with the same symptoms. Thanks to independent testing done by Scott Smith, Chief Sustainability Officer at Eco Integrated Technologies, and his team, they’re finally getting some clarity.

“In summary, there are about 50 different chemicals from petroleum-related compounds that appear to only come from very intense coal factories, coal burning which would indicate that it’s from the controlled burn and or derailment itself and we found a host of dioxins present,” Smith said.

While Smith admits the results aren’t good news. They do make sense.

“They are consistent with the people that are showing symptoms,” Smith said. “There’s clearly a consistent pattern and the people who aren’t showing symptoms, these chemicals are not there.”

The EPA classifies dioxins as highly toxic. They can cause cancer, reproductive problems, and damage the immune system.

“It effectively makes dioxin the fentanyl of chemicals,” Smith said.

The EPA has done some soil testing too. While they did report finding dioxins, they said the levels were low enough that there was no reason to restrict activities.

“The EPA is citing a singular exposure to a singular dioxin or chemical and what the experts and the medical doctor I’m working with, it’s about the combination of these chemicals,” Smith said. “There are no standards so there you have it again, it’s facts vs truth. The truth is for every 10 chemicals we find there’s a thousand different combinations there are no quote standards or safety research on the combination of these chemicals.”

Smith plans to do some follow up testing at the Murphy’s home on Tuesday.

He is also working with Dr. Beatrice Golomb, professor of medicine at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine to track exposures to water, air, and food. They’ll also be collecting blood samples. The goal is to follow residents over time to study how their symptoms and blood markers may predict future health issues connected to the derailment.