EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) – Several concerns were discussed at a town hall in East Palestine on Thursday following the fallout of the Norfolk Southern train derailment. One question asked: Is it safe to eat livestock and hunt?

As reports of soil and surface water contamination have been released, there were concerns as to whether or not animals drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated grass could affect people who later consume those animals.

“A lot of the chemicals that were on the train are not gonna necessarily travel that much distance, with the exception of dioxin,” said Steven Lester, science director for the Center for Health and Environmental Justice.

Dioxins refer to a group of toxic chemical compounds that share certain chemical structures and biological characteristics, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“When you burn a chlorinated chemical like vinyl chloride, you generate dioxins. These categories, there’s like 75 of these dioxins. One of them is the most toxic chemical ever tested in the United States,” Lester said.

The EPA says dioxins are highly toxic and can cause cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, damage to the immune system and can interfere with hormones.

Heather Hulton VanTassel, executive director of Three Rivers Waterkeeper, says that dioxins and chemicals like dioxins don’t break down easily once they are in the soil.

“Because they’re big and heavy, they tend to start to accumulate in certain polyps, and sometimes that includes organs,” she said.

Lester explained how it could possibly be dangerous to consume an animal that ingested contaminated food or water.

“If a cow eats grass where dioxin has settled from the air, it will get into the cow, and that means it gets into the milk, it gets into the hamburger… Any animal that feeds on or drinks water that’s been contaminated, for dioxin in particular, will accumulate that compound,” Lester said.

According to the EPA, more than 90% of typical human exposure to dioxin is estimated to be through the intake of animal fats, mainly meat, dairy products, fish and shellfish.

“How far down the watershed do people in the communities and further communities have to be worried about the deer, fish, squirrels, rabbits, all of that?” asked one man in the crowd who described himself as an avid outdoorsman.

One woman in the crowd said she lives 15 miles away and soot from the controlled vinyl chloride burn fell onto her porch and property.

Lester said to his knowledge the EPA has not tested for dioxins in East Palestine or the surrounding areas. He says this is a big mistake. First News found no mention of dioxins in any of the reports and documents made public by the EPA.

On Feb. 18, Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and J.D. Vance (R-OH) sent a letter to the U.S. EPA and the Ohio EPA requesting information on their plans to monitor East Palestine and the surrounding area for dioxins.

“It’s a problem, it’s definitely a problem and it needs to get looked at as part of the picture,” Lester said.