War of words over looming EPA dioxin study
January 27th, 2012
11:04 AM ET

War of words over looming EPA dioxin study

With the EPA's deadline only days away, a war of words has erupted over whether the agency should go ahead with a dioxin study decades in the making.

Vietnam veterans, environmental advocates and women’s groups were among the more than 2,000 individuals and organizations signing a letter Thursday urging EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to publish the dioxin risk assessment.

“We are writing to strongly urge you to finalize the EPA’s study on dioxin, which has been delayed for over 25 years,” the one-page letter says.

The EPA has said it would release its non-cancer risk assessment for dioxin by the end of the month, with the agency’s dioxin cancer risk assessment following “as expeditiously as possible.”

The chemical industry and a number of food groups have written the EPA administrator saying the anticipated standards would be misleading and bad for business.

EPA, which published its first dioxin-related report in 1983, has been working ever since on defining the risks for dioxins, a family of chemicals characterized by the EPA as “likely human carcinogens.” They accumulate in the fatty tissues of animals and move up the food chain. Exposure comes primarily from meat, dairy, fish and shellfish.

Dioxin exposure has been linked to learning disabilities, birth defects, endometriosis and diabetes. The developing fetus and newborns, exposed through breast milk, are considered particularly vulnerable to dioxin exposure.

Almost every man, woman and child on the planet has some dioxin in their bodies, though exposures to the chemicals have declined over the last two decades as the result of tougher regulations in some countries, according to the World Health Organization.

Most dioxins are byproducts of such industrial processes as waste incineration, the chlorine bleaching of paper pulp and the manufacture of some herbicides and pesticides. Dioxin was an impurity in Agent Orange, a defoliant used extensively in Vietnam.

Paul Sutton, 67, among the letter’s signors, served two tours in the Marine Corps in Vietnam. Sutton says he was exposed to dioxin when he sprayed the perimeter of firebases with Agent Orange. All three sons were born with birth defects, he said, which he blames on his dioxin exposure.

“Going back to the first Bush Administration, George Herbert Walker Bush, we have been at loggerheads with the Environmental Protection Agency with the reassessment of dioxin, which was originally supposed to have been published in 1990,” he said.

In a statement, Lois Marie Gibbs, Executive Director of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice, said the EPA “has repeatedly allowed the chemical industry to delay its efforts to finalize its study.”

Scott Jensen, with American Chemistry Council, said the industry group fears the EPA dioxin standards will raise unfounded fears about the safety of the food supply. He pointed to the Department of Agriculture’s “MyPlate” recommendations for a healthy diet.

“If you follow through on the USDA guidelines, you will have a fair amount of population exceeding what EPA says is an acceptable level of dioxin,” Jensen said.

The American Farm Bureau Federation and a number of other food groups co-signed a letter to the EPA earlier this month saying, “We remain concerned agency actions will inadvertently mislead and frighten consumers about the safety of food and may trigger negative trading partner actions, either of which could have a major negative economic impact on U.S. food producers.”

soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Marlee

    Publish the reports already! 25 years is too long; don't make us wait that long for round up! The American people aren't too stupid to digest the facts! They won't eat less they will eat better! Shame on the USDA and FDA for not telling us what is in our food! EPA get ontop gmo – genetically modified food too! Label it at least. Corporate is hungry for one thing – profits.

    January 27, 2012 at 12:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Marlee

    God bless our soldiers! The gov should do right by them and their families! It's a disgrace, they deserve better!!

    January 27, 2012 at 12:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Earnest T Bass

    I'm 56 and DDT was as readily accessible back then as Roundup is today. Everyone was spraying it and when people heard it was being taken off the market they stock piled it.

    January 27, 2012 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. David Hermanson

    I worked as a Vertac employee at the superfund site in Jacksonville Arkansas. I was in a legal dispute about the hazards of Dioxin.This case went to the supreme court in Mpls. The facts that we had are relavant to this issue. I have seen the affect of many of my coworkers exposed to the chemicals. They were not the only ones hit by the diminished laws of the corporate laws. Children born and unborn; due to the environmental contamination, had no chance. Morison kunutson(5th largest constuction company in the world), had lawyers and we did also. This took TEN YEARS to file a suit against me and my fellow workers for filing a frivolous law suit-but they decided to let us alone if it was dropped.Go figure this one out. Health has also been bad along side of the many symptoms of exposure to dioxin. They then went to the Coffeeville Kansas to incinerate the "T"waiste. Then they went to the East coast to burn more for profit. We are at the corperations mercy.
    Good luck! They have company Doctors that they pay so they have a clean bill of health–what do you think?

    January 27, 2012 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
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