Independent testing expert reports increase in dioxins in East Palestine as residents report more symptoms

Published: Aug. 1, 2023 at 10:51 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WOIO) - It’s been nearly six months since that catastrophic train derailment in East Palestine and fallout from the massive chemical spill is still being felt in the village.

East Palestine resident Laurie Harmon is a two-time cancer survivor. She is also immunocompromised.

“I’m going to seven specialists,” Harmon said. “So, I’m not sure what my next step is. I’m going to the Cleveland Clinic, and we’ll see from there.”

She said her symptoms have gotten worse in the past couple of months. Recently she’s been having severe skin reactions whenever she’s around grass or dirt.

“This started in May, they were in the process of healing then last week I got another bout of it,” Harmon said. “Since they have been removing the chemicals out of our ground and the dirty water a lot of this stuff is floating around and people are getting sick from not the day that it happened on February 3 but it’s continuing to happen so it’s very scary to know that we’re living in a town that is contaminated and we don’t know what our future holds.”

Independent testing expert Scott Smith first started testing the sediment at Sulfur Run on February 22.

His most recent results are from May 29. He found a staggering 644% increase in one particular set of dioxins.

His results also found that the toxic equivalency concentration at Sulfur Run increased by 261% from February to May.

TEQ is the measure the EPA uses to determine the toxicity of a set of chemicals.

The EPA considers dioxins highly toxic. They can cause cancer and reproductive issues.

“The unknown is the scary part again if you have the facts you can go to your doctor, you know what you’re exposed to,” Smith said.

“We just kind of need to know the answers so we know what our next step is whether we can stay, whether we go, whether we’ve been here too long already and that’s gonna affect us later down the road,” said East Palestine resident, Tamara Freeze.

Smith also tested the soil on Haggart Road in May. He found 65,000% more dioxins there than a control sample he tested from nearby Negley, Ohio.

“Since this data was released in the last 48 hours, I was contacted by a resident who has rashes and burning skin who was touching the soil in her yard. It appears as though something is really happening here and again; we need more data.”

19 News reached out to the EPA about Smith’s results. A spokesperson said his results do indicate that the dioxin levels are elevated but because of the location of the sample, the EPA does not recommend any immediate action.

They did say that his data may be considered when developing future assessment plans.

The EPA said they tested 17 locations along the same road and their results were within typical ranges.

Smith said he stands by his results and will continue to test throughout the area.

“The data is pointing to something is going on with people’s health and this community is not making it up,” said Smith.

The EPA said they did test at 146 locations and they are evaluating those results and will make a recommendation soon for a possible plan for more soil sampling.

Their plan will include dioxin sampling once the major removal work is complete.