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Ohio senators raise alarm on cancer-causing chemical potentially spreading in East Palestine

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Sens. JD Vance, R-Ohio, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, penned a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its state counterpart over the weekend, requesting more information regarding the potential spread of a compound in East Palestine, Ohio, that can cause cancer.

The two Ohio senators warned in the letter sent Saturday EPA Administrator Michael Regan and Ohio EPA Director Anne Vogel that the combustion of vinyl chloride — the toxic chemical released and burned after a train carrying it derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, earlier this month — can lead to the formation of dioxins, highly toxic compounds that are “persistent environmental pollutants.”

Citing EPA information, they noted that dioxins can interfere with hormones and can cause cancer, reproductive and developmental problems. Dioxins may also damage an exposed individual’s immune system. Vance and Brown asked whether the agencies were testing for dioxins and for more information regarding the federal and state protocol for handling mass dioxin exposure.

“Following our visits to East Palestine this past week where we heard directly from members of the community, we remain concerned that it does not appear that the U.S. EPA, OEPA, or Norfolk Southern is texting for dioxins,” Vance and Brown wrote. 

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Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, holds a media availability in East Palestine on Thursday to answer questions on the train derailment fallout.  (WYFX)

“We are concerned that the burning of large volumes of vinyl chloride may have resulted in the formation of dioxins that may have been dispersed throughout the East Palestine community and potentially a much larger area,” the letter added.

In addition to six questions about the agencies current dioxin testing strategy that they demanded answered by Feb. 24, they concluded the letter demanding both agencies coordinate an immediate testing regimen to ensure regular testing for dioxins in the region. 

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“This monitoring should not only be a part of a long-term strategy, it should be implemented immediately and communicated to the local community to ensure transparency,” the senators said.

People living near the site of an Ohio train derailment that resulted in the controlled release of toxic chemicals fear returning home.

People living near the site of an Ohio train derailment that resulted in the controlled release of toxic chemicals fear returning home. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

In the aftermath of the derailment in the small eastern Ohio town, the train’s operator Norfolk Southern opted to release the chemical to avoid a massive explosion. Residents were asked to evacuate during the release, but assured the area was safe to return six days later on Feb. 9.

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The EPA, Ohio EPA and Norfolk Southern contractors have conducted numerous tests to assure residents the air and water is safe.

However, some locals have worried that the event could impact their long-term health and experts have warned about the environmental damage from the chemical release.

“This really looks like a nuclear winter,” Sil Caggiano, a local hazardous materials specialist, told Fox News last week. “Pretty much, yeah, we nuked this town with chemicals.” 

The EPA and Ohio EPA didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

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