Daycare owners voice concern over toxins in area 

By Paige Nash

Toxins left behind by the inoperative Imperial Cleaners are a cause of concern for nearby daycare owners. Business owners and residents near the property of 211 Pennsylvania Avenue received notice from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality on April 22 that contamination was detected in the vicinity of their businesses or homes. 

The notice included attached information regarding potential health effects that may be associated with exposure to these types of chemicals.  

These businesses include, Pink Magnolia, Wise Dancenter, Webster Parish Community Services, Minden’s Finest Storage II, Webster Parish Head Start, Minden Press-Herald, Bobbie’s Hobbies, First Baptist Church/Preschool and the Children’s Center.  

Julie Vogel is the owner of the Children’s Center located on Broadway. Vogel and her staff are responsible for several children at the facility during the week. Some of the children attend the daycare for many hours every day.  

“It is concerning to think that these chemicals have been leaking and could have or can be affecting our children and people in the area,” Vogel said.  

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends that workplace exposure to tetrachloroethylene be minimized due to concerns about its carcinogenicity.  

According to a public health statement released by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, if you are exposed to this toxin for brief time periods it may cause you to become dizzy or sleepy, develop headaches, cause incoordination, or unconsciousness if you are breathing in substantial amounts. People who are exposed to lower levels over a longer period of time may have changes in mood, memory, attention, reaction time, or vision. Those that are exposed to tetrachloroethylene for years may have a higher risk of getting cancers, such as, bladder, multiple myeloma, or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It may cause harm to the nervous system, liver, kidneys and reproductive system. 

“They will be checking the air quality to see what we are dealing with and if there are any contaminants,” said Vogel. “Hopefully, the leaking is contained, and we will not have any concerns in our building, but it is scary to have this so close to home. Right now, it is a waiting game to see what will happen and how they will protect us from any further damage.” 

Many employees and parents of the children who attend these centers in the vicinity of the contamination were not contacted regarding the situation.  

A concerned parent expressed their disgruntlement with being left in the dark. 

“I feel like I have a right to know simply because of the children right next door. Even if it were not an immediate concern, it could turn into something in the future,” she said, on the condition of anonymity. “It bothers me because my child has attended one of the daycares for four years now.” 

Her daughter suffers from constant stomach pains and bladder infections. She has recently been seen by a Gastrointestinal Specialists on two separate occasions, with no answers yet. There are numerous other reports of children and adults currently experiencing the same issues. It is not clear if these instances are in connection with the possible exposure to the contamination.  

First Baptist Church of Minden just sent home a letter Friday, June 3, to the daycare parents informing them of the contamination LDEQ detected in the vicinity of their property. 

The letter states, “The LDEQ has assured us on two occasions that they do not believe there is any danger to our daycare or our buildings. They are going to further investigate as a precaution. We have given them permission to test air samples in our building and fully support testing to ensure safety of our properties.” 

The chemicals in the groundwater near the surface have the potential to produce vapors that can enter a building through cracks in foundations, around pipes or through a drain system. When this happens, it is referred to as vapor intrusion. The LDEQ has only pulled soil and groundwater samples at this time. The next round of tests will be to check the air quality inside the buildings to see if vapor intrusion has occurred. 

“Anytime there is a potential environmental exposure it is concerning,” said Alyson Neel, Communications Director with Louisiana Department of Health. These chemicals are known carcinogens and we take this matter seriously. We will keep the public up to date on this evolving situation.” 

Once the results come back from further testing – set to take place over the next couple of weeks – the LDEQ will determine a clear plan of action to resolve the issue, if necessary.

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