A Small Town's Battle With Dioxin Pollution

A small town grapples with the legacy of a chemical byproduct.


See photos of Nitro, W. Va.

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"What in the world could you do to clean up Nitro?" asks Woodall, who let the lawyers test inside his home. "You just have to let the judge and the lawyers and the company fight it out. I have no idea what they're trying to do."

Dioxin is one of only a handful of chemicals the EPA has banned from industrial manufacturing, yet it is still produced as a byproduct in many plants. And maybe its longevity is a warning. An effort is underway in Congress to update the Toxic Substances Control Act, which governs human-created chemicals. When it was passed in 1976, it grandfathered in tens of thousands of chemicals, meaning none of them had to be approved for safety. Now there's a push to shift the burden to industry, to make manufacturers prove that chemicals are safe before they're created on a big scale.

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