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Ohio must get students off polluted grounds
Sunday, August 6, 2000
I read with interest the recent articles in The Dispatch about the River Valley High School's environmental investigation.
But it was as I listened to Bruce Molholt, a former toxicologist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, at a recent Restoration Advisory Board meeting that an answer for the prevalence of health problems among the alumni of River Valley was finally offered.
To be told that the exposure is via air and that the chemical element involved is vinyl chloride was alarming. This meant that nowhere on the campus are the children safe.
And Molholt confirmed that when he was asked whether the students were safe. He stated that they were not and that they should not be attending school there. And as long as chemicals from the old dumps on the property were present, the exposure would continue.
This information was very disturbing, in and of itself. But to have at the same meeting a confirmation of elevated leukemia and esophageal cancers released by the Ohio Department of Health only served to confirm what Molholt had said.
To see that the classes of 1963 and '64, which spent only one or two years at the high school, reported only five cancers, and the next class, which spent three to four years on the campus, reported 27 cancers was very distressing. And then to have Kevin Jasper, site coordinator for the Army Corps of Engineers, proclaim that his data, which do not include comprehensive air sampling, show that the children are safe was appalling, since vinyl chloride has been documented in the soil on the campus by the corps. And what is in the soil as a gas migrates into the air, as Molholt explained.
The children of River Valley should not have to definitely prove that the vinyl chloride is causing the health problems. Vinyl chloride is classified as a Class A carcinogen by the U.S. EPA. It is an extremely dangerous substance and has been proved to cause cancer in humans. Definitive studies would take years to complete.
In the meantime, immediate adverse effects on the students' developing bodies would continue, with the result that many future graduates would develop cancers. To say otherwise is to ignore the evidence of the health survey and the problems among the alumni.
Ohio must take steps now to remove the children from the campus and relocate them until new schools can be built.
Why should the children of River Valley be required to reach a bar of proof so high that it would take years of studies to prove? This is not a hypothetical situation, since the health of many alumni has already been affected.
Ohio needs to set aside its concerns about setting a precedent and to stop focusing on the economics and start focusing on the welfare of the children. To do any less is unconscionable and villainous.
River Valley Class of 1978
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