February 1st, 2012
11:22 AM ET
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency missed its self-imposed deadline to complete a dioxin health assessment by the end of January. The agency, which has been working on publishing dioxin risks since the mid-1980s, on Wednesday said the report would be "finalized as expeditiously as possible."
The missed deadline prompted criticism from environmental groups.
"Shame on EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson for denying parents the information they need to protect their children from the health impacts of dioxin, said Lois Marie Gibbs, executive director of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice.
The EPA planned to release a non-cancer health assessment of dioxin by January 31, with the cancer assessment following soon after.
The agency's plans to quantify dioxin risks has pitted environmental groups, parent organizations and Vietnam veterans in favor of an assessment against the agriculture, food and chemical industries, which say the EPA report is unnecessary and will hurt businesses by triggering unfounded fears.
"Another delay is unfortunate, but it is clear that the EPA has more work to do in order for the agency to release a complete and scientifically defensible dioxin assessment," the American Chemistry Council, an industry group, said in a statement.
The EPA calls dioxins "likely human carcinogens." Most exposure to dioxins come from food, particularly meat, dairy, fish and shellfish.
Dioxins are a family of highly toxic chemical compounds. Most dioxins are byproducts of industrial processes and get into the food chain, where they accumulate in fatty tissue. Dioxin was also an impurity in Agent Orange, a defoliant used during the Vietnam War.
Almost every man, woman and child on the plant now has some dioxin in their bodies. Dioxin exposure has been linked to learning disabilities, reproductive problems, endometriosis and diabetes. The developing fetus and newborns, exposed through breast milk, are considered particularly vulnerable to dioxin exposure.
Dioxin levels in the environment peaked in the 1960s and '70s and have been declining since, according to studies.
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