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EPA orders dioxin tests in E. Palestine. But who understands this complex game? I break it down.

EPA orders dioxin tests in E. Palestine. But who understands this complex game? I break it down.

Based on the concerns of local residents, EPA has ordered testing for dioxins. But they are testing in all the wrong places — and they claim there is an 'acceptable level' of contamination

Note to Readers —This mailing is from Planet Waves FM - Chiron Return, with a preview of what I will cover on tomorrow night’s program. — efc

Header of the EPA press release that came out at about 5 pm Thursday.

So begins a complicated game where only one side understands the rules and the technology involved. Here is the playbook.

Tune in Friday night on Planet Waves FM, which usually posts before its scheduled 10 pm time.

To everything I’ve written below, add split sampling to two labs, and citizen witnessing of the sampling. Are they going to come in with moon suits at 2 am?

Dear Friend and Reader:

Thursday evening, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it had ordered Norfolk Southern to test for dioxins in the aftermath of its train crash in East Palestine, Ohio one month ago.

But the wording of the press release indicates that there is plenty of wiggle room for the railroad to get out of a major cleanup, or having to evacuate the town. The dioxin testing game is a well-established routine played by state and federal authorities. But only one side knows the rules and understands the technology involved.

Testing in the wrong places

In sum: they are testing in the wrong places, where they are least likely to find dioxins. Further, I have not seen the words “furans” or “dibenzofurans” anywhere but one of my own articles. They are dioxins with one oxygen rather than two.

Dioxin is regarded as the most toxic of all chemicals, and has the capacity to cause cancers, promote cancers, wreck the immune system, interfere with the hormone system (causing a diversity of illnesses), and cause severe liver damage. The acne associated with dioxin, called chloracne, has been known since the 1930s to be direct result of liver necrosis and systemic poisoning.

Let’s start with the good news, if you can call it that…

As I promised, community pressure gets results. But now the community has to know the dioxin game. Study this and listen to the recording a few times and you will get the idea.

EPA admitted that it had caved to public pressure, which was mounted after my first article on the dioxin issue went viral. Carol van Strum and I also met with East Palestine residents on Feb. 13 to explain the dioxin problem. Since then it has come up at every town meeting, and there has been considerable (meaning nonstop) pressure brought to bear on EPA officials.

From the press release:

“Over the last few weeks, I’ve sat with East Palestine residents and community leaders in their homes, businesses, churches, and schools. I’ve heard their fears and concerns directly, and I’ve pledged that these experiences would inform EPA’s ongoing response efforts,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.

“In response to concerns shared with me by residents, EPA will require Norfolk Southern to sample directly for dioxins under the agency’s oversight and direct the company to conduct immediate clean up if contaminants from the derailment are found at levels that jeopardize people’s health.”

Now the bad news

They are testing the wrong places if they want to find it, in particular, air, water and soil. It will not be in the air or surface water, and is is only somewhat likely to be in soil samples. They need to be testing greasy sediments and bulk soot from the fires.

Here is their language:

As of February 28, EPA has collected at least 115 samples in the potentially impacted area, which include samples of air, soils, surface water, and sediments.  To date, EPA’s monitoring for indicator chemicals has suggested a low probability for release of dioxin from this incident. EPA’s air has detected only low levels of 1,4-dichlorobenzene typical of ambient background concentrations. 

They are playing two different games here. That is, besides the use of “indicator chemicals,” which I do not consider a valid measure.

One is they are NOT looking for it where it’s the most likely to be: in the burn pit, which is never mentioned; and in wipe samples taken from nearby rooftops.

That is where they will almost certainly find it, given how much chlorinated chemicals burned, along with lubricating oil and other chemicals that can bond into dioxins when they are all burned burned together.

PVC also burned — that creates dioxins

The four train carloads of PVC pellets that burned are certain to have formed dioxins, though these are rarely mentioned. All that is mentioned is the vinyl chloride that was dumped and burned. Also not mentioned is that vinyl chloride was off-gassing for three days while many other chemicals were burning, making chlorine available to those fires.

But no proposed testing protocol that I have seen will give an accurate picture of what actually happened in those fires.

For that, there must be wipe samples taken from rooftops and bulk soot samples collected from below where the burn pit was filled in. It would also be good to have wipe samples from the interior and exterior of the vinyl chloride tankers.

Without samples from the burn pit and nearby rooftops, testing is a work of fiction comparable to using the PCR to ‘diagnose’ a virus. Dioxin is lipophilic. It sticks to fat. They must test greasy substances, such as soot. If they don’t need hexane solvent to take the sample, they are looking in the wrong place — where it will not be.

Pretending there is an acceptable level of exposure

Now here is the real catch: the EPA will “direct the company to conduct immediate clean up if contaminants from the derailment are found at levels that jeopardize people’s health.”

That sounds good, but there are a series of problems with this approach: there is no safe level of exposure.

ANY level of exposure can jeopardize people’s health. The risks are not spread evenly. They are talking about “negligible risk,” which means killing a certain number of people and calling it good, instead of calling it murder. Read this article on the topic.

But it gets worse. From the press release:

Dioxins may be found in any urban or rural environment as a result of common processes such as burning wood or coal.  Dioxins break down slowly in the environment, so the source of dioxins found in any area may be uncertain. To address related questions, EPA will require Norfolk Southern to conduct a background study to compare any dioxin levels around East Palestine to dioxin levels in other areas not impacted by the train derailment. 

  1. They admit there is a background level in the environment from previous pollution, which they will hide behind. This is what they always do; and it goes further in that they can tell people you’re not sick from this dioxin, you’re sick from that dioxin.

  2. They have no way to know what areas were “impacted by the train derailment” because they don’t understand how the plume spread. Based on my reporting, I am aware that people have reported unusual illnesses or wildlife deaths as far west as central Ohio; as far south as Kentucky; ans as far east as New Hampshire.

  3. If the dioxins spread well beyond the derailment site, then the “background level” will already be elevated and invalidate the results of the study. EPA can say, “Well, the levels in East Palestine are not much higher than the surrounding areas. Therefore, it’s safe.” But that is a fallacy several times over. Any baseline would need to have been measured before a presumed dioxin release, not after.

  4. There is no mention of dibenzofurans, or furans, which are dioxins with one oxygen molecule rather than two. We may assume that the EPA protocol includes furans, but that is not a safe assumption. Furans must be tested for in the same round of analysis with dioxins; the ARE dioxins.

Why can I write this without even referring to notes? Because I know from many different events that this is how the game is played. But the citizens of East Palestine and beyond don’t know this. How would they?

OK, those are my thoughts tonight.

Please add your comments and let’s get this out to the people in East Palestine, and the many other places where people are getting sick. And for anyone who thinks there is such a thing as acceptable risk, please read this excellent article by Carol van Strum that asks whether “risk assessment” is a form of premeditated murder.

Catch you tomorrow night before 10 pm ET on Planet Waves FM, good lord willing and if the creek don’t rise.

Eric Francis Coppolino is a New York-based investigative reporter who has covered mass poisoning incidents and dioxin since he was 19-year-old student reporter. He is now executive director of Chiron Return, which is dedicated to training journalists, and host of Planet Waves FM on Pacifica Radio Network.

Your paid subscriptions go to Chiron Return, covering the costs of my reporting and radio program each Friday night. Thank you!

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