The Butte County coroner’s office said Monday that a blocked artery, not an unusually high level of dioxin, killed a woman who collapsed outside a local medical center, triggering a community uproar over the threat of dioxin here.
Mick Gray, assistant sheriff and chief deputy coroner, said tests determined that Elaine Brooks, 42, had a blocked pulmonary artery in her lungs when she collapsed last month outside the door of the Oroville Medical Center. She died within an hour.
Brooks had gone to the medical center complaining of a respiratory problem.
Last March, Brooks and her husband, Dan, were informed by the state Department of Health Services that tests of chicken eggs from their farm had detected dangerous levels of the cancer-causing chemical dioxin.
The tests were part of a probe begun after an April, 1987, chemical fire at the Koppers Co. wood treatment plant about a mile northeast of the Brooks farm.
The fire burned an estimated 9,000 pounds of pentachlorphenol, a wood preservative that can create dioxin when burned. Dioxin is a highly toxic material used in chemical warfare agents.
Norma Prince, a member of a group called Citizens for Clean Water, accused the coroner’s office of covering up the real cause of Brooks’ death, claiming that Brooks had been told by a state toxicologist that she had high levels of dioxin in her body.
But Gray said Brooks had only a normal level of dioxin. “Her levels of dioxin were the same as yours or mine or anybody else’s,” he said.