First they mixed the chemicals, then dried them to form a powder or cake. Then the powder was bagged and sent away.
At the end of each day, they had to clean. They swept the extra powder into bins so it could be taken to landfills and burned, Woodall says. They hosed the equipment from top to bottom, washing the extra chemicals into the sewer.
The fumes from the chemicals were noxious. They caused workers' skin to blister. To protect their faces, Woodall and his coworkers were given jars of cream. That didn't help very much.
This was in 1961 and part of 1962. Today, Woodall still smells the chemicals. He smells them coming from his skin when he sweats, and in the summer his pillowcases turn yellow where the fabric touches his cheek. "I know the smell anywhere," he says. "I know the old dioxin smell."
The plant was owned by
Dioxin is best known for being a contaminant in Agent Orange, a herbicide used in
Cleanup. The only things that hint of what was here are signs that say "No Trespassing.
It is not just that site. There's an old landfill of the type Woodall described, where
As hard as it is to clean up soil, at least there's a chance. With people, there's no such possibility. In 1991, Woodall retired after 30 years of service, and
About a year after he retired, Woodall developed colon cancer. Maybe dioxin had something to do with it; maybe it didn't. But thousands of
Elevated risk.When Woodall started at the plant, it's fair to say not much was known about dioxin's long-term effects. Yes, it burned the skin and smelled foul. But
In the 1976 accident in Seveso, a plant released dioxin. Since then, researchers have studied residents of the area and found elevated risks of certain cancers and spikes in infertility accompanying increased exposure to dioxin. But there and elsewhere, controversy has dogged the science. The
But the former workers aren't the only ones affected. In
Several years ago, a local law firm, the Calwell Practice, started conducting dioxin tests inside people's homes. Samples also were taken from public schools and a community center. The firm says elevated levels of dioxin were found. Several government agencies reviewed the results and concluded that the dioxin levels "do not pose a health problem."
"What in the world could you do to clean up
Dioxin is one of only a handful of chemicals the
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Environment - Small Town Grapples with Legacy of Chemical Byproduct | Kent Garber
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