Environmental Protection

Groups Ask for Release of Dioxin Report

The Center for Health, Environment & Justice along with other groups on Jan. 23 called on President Barack Obama to release the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's report on dioxins.

In a letter to the President, the groups decried President Bush's last-minute gift to the chemical industry by calling for another review of the science, which will only lead to "paralysis" as EPA finds its hands too tied to issue urgently needed regulations of dioxin emissions and cleanups, the release said.

In October 2008, Bush's EPA ordered another review of the Dioxin Reassessment by the Science Advisory Board. An EPA Science Advisory Board reviewed this report in 2000-2001 and in June, 2001, the EPA Science Advisory Board sent a letter to EPA Administrator Christine Whitman urging the reassessment be completed and released.

The groups urged President Obama to cancel this review and release the Dioxin Reassessment so that EPA can move forward in developing protective dioxin policies and standards.

In 1985, EPA completed its first health assessment of dioxin and concluded there was an increased cancer risk in humans at dioxin exposure levels lower than had been estimated by any government agency anywhere in the world. Dioxin is the most potent carcinogen ever evaluated by the agency.

The chemical industry, in an effort to avoid widespread regulation, has lobbied for a reassessment of the report to find a "threshold" of exposure to dioxin, below which there is no risk.

In 1991, EPA reassessed the health effects of dioxins and came to an even more alarming conclusion: there is no threshold for some of dioxin's effects, and dioxin acts like a hormone, disrupting many systems in the body. In 1994, the agency concluded in a draft report that dioxin poses a serious cancer risk and that the average American carried a level of dioxin that could cause adverse health effects.

Through the years, dioxin-generating companies launched an aggressive campaign to stall the release of the report. They have been successful over the past 15 years, tying EPA's findings in numerous reassessments by the Science Advisory Board, the National Academies, and an Interagency Working Group. None of the reviews have produced changes in the EPA's bottom line: dioxin is a highly toxic substance that causes a variety of cancers and adverse health effects including developmental, reproductive, immunological, and endrocrinological effects at extremely low levels.

On July 11, 2006, the National Academies released a report confirming once more that dioxin is a potent cancer-causing chemical.

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