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East Palestine resident diagnosed with 'sinobronchitis from exposure to toxins'

EPA Administrator Michael Regan continues to reassure community members water and air testing has not yielded any adverse health impacts
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Posted at 5:35 PM, Mar 02, 2023

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — Environmental activist Erin Brockovich was in East Palestine Thursday talking with residents. A number of them want to move out of town as they continue to report respiratory health and skin concerns.

“It has very much gotten worse anytime it rains and the severe rains a couple days ago, I was just down, I could barely get out of bed,” said Kathy Smith, an East Palestine resident.

The contaminated and toxic Sulphur Run, which runs through East Palestine, flows right behind Kathy and Travis Smith's home. Both believe that waterway is a big part of their recent illnesses.

“We are trying to temporarily relocate because whatever they are doing right behind our house, the creek is noxious,” said Smith. “It's terrible and smells every time they turn it up, especially at night.”

Kathy and Travis said the problems began when they returned home after the evacuation order was lifted.

“I know the first day we came back from the whole evacuation my whole face was beet red, had a rash all over it, had a mark on my leg,” said Travis.

Kathy started having intense drainage, coughing, and a runny nose.

“It was harder and harder to take a deep breath,” Smith said. “Hit the wheezing stage four days after it all started. It was just really, really bad. We ended up having to go to the hospital because my chest was hurting so bad that I was kind of getting heart scared.”

Kathy says her symptoms haven't subsided, even with medication. Her local doctor recently diagnosed her with sinobronchitis, due to exposure to toxins.

“She said judging from the blood work and the way everything looked, it was considered chemical bronchitis, that there was damage to my lungs,” Smith added.

Travis is also suffering from respiratory illness, as well as psychological issues.

“Mine have been more anxiety depression, just feeling like I can't take care of my family in this situation,” Travis said.

Toxicologist Dr. Stephanie Widmer told ABC News some chemicals and byproducts involved in the train derailment may cause eye and throat irritation and burning. But when EPA Administrator Michael Regan visited East Palestine Tuesday he said there does not appear to be a significant risk of acute chemical exposure.

“I want to be clear that our testing air quality testing in the state, our water quality testing has not yielded any adverse health impacts that we have seen at this moment,” Regan said.

Kathy said she and her husband's diagnosis suggests otherwise.

“So many of my friends are sick,” Smith said. “I'm sick. I've got my file that clearly says. They're lying to everyone by saying there have been no problems.”

Chief Medical Officer for Mercy Health in Youngtown and Lorain, Dr. James Kravec, operates a primary care facility near East Palestine. Kravec said concerned residents have been coming in to get checked.

"It's really hard to know exactly the cause of many of these symptoms," said Kravec. "There is really no lab test checking for any sort of chemical exposure. Right now, there really is no imaging studies. We use our skills as physicians and providers to take care of patients and go by symptoms. Right now, it's what we have."

RELATED: U.S. EPA orders Norfolk Southern to test for dioxins in East Palestine

CLICK HERE to read more about the East Palestine train derailment.

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