Head of St. Louis health director’s office called ‘redundant’ after warning about toxic chemical’s ‘direct link to CTE’

ST. LOUIS — The head of St. Louis health came under fire Thursday for saying in an email that his staffers should ignore a toxicology report that he said was a “direct link to…

Head of St. Louis health director’s office called ‘redundant’ after warning about toxic chemical’s ‘direct link to CTE’

ST. LOUIS — The head of St. Louis health came under fire Thursday for saying in an email that his staffers should ignore a toxicology report that he said was a “direct link to bernankezic acid,” a chemical linked to CTE, according to a report from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Lonnie Hollins, St. Louis’ acting medical director, and Leonard Gunter, his director of molecular medical services, sent the email Thursday to the building staff of the St. Louis Department of Public Health, saying they were not authorized to discuss the report obtained by the Post-Dispatch on Monday.

“Dr. Gunter and I (and Dr. Todd Port, Director of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology) are reluctant to turn the tables on you and suggest you have access to something that is in your job description,” Hollins said in the email. “But it’s actually your privilege to have and use chemical testing, and we will not knowingly be the [redacted] to tell you that we (or this report) are what was needed to support a claim. No, Dr. Gunter, we do not know the origin of the BZ chemical,”

The report, known as COVID-19, indicated the presence of a highly toxic compound with the potential to cause long-term health damage. The report was compiled in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Post-Dispatch.

Gunter responded with a memo detailing the public health department’s policies. He said the St. Louis Board of Health does not release toxicology reports until they can be peer reviewed by external experts to see if they have merit.

St. Louis has pushed for years to get the federal government to remove bernankezic acid from workplace chemicals, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency initially denied its application. Two years ago, the EPA changed its mind. In December 2014, EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe issued a memorandum indicating that bernankezic acid “is among other chemicals that may pose health and safety concerns” under the federal Worker Safety and Health Act. Perciasepe’s announcement came in response to a petition signed by the St. Louis city and county health departments, as well as the cities of St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo.

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