Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition


Press Release

July 11, 2006
Contacts: Vivian Stockman, OVEC, 304-522 -0246; Lois Gibbs, CHEJ, 703-627-9483 (Cell); Dr. Richard Clapp, B.U. School of Public Health 617-638-4731 or 617-638-4620 

New National Academies Study Concludes Dioxin is Toxic

5th Review of 15 Year-Long Delayed Study Finds Widely Disbursed Chemical

Causes Cancer, Developmental Problems and Birth Defects


HUNTINGTON, W.VA.--The National Academies National Research Council released a controversial report today confirming what numerous scientific panels have concluded over the past 15 years: dioxin is a potent cancer-causing chemical. Chlorine-based industries have been effectively stalling the release of the EPAs controversial dioxin reassessment for 15 years.


In the 1950s Monsanto dumped chemical waste at sites along Heizer and Manila creeks near Poca. Since at least the 70s, fish downstream in the Kanawha River have been found to have excessively high levels of dioxin. Apparent high cancer rates in the area have fueled long-time concerns that dioxin is poisoning nearby communities, said Vivian Stockman, project coordinator with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC).  


The chemical companies, the federal EPA and the state DEP have done little that really clean ups the contamination. Although this latest report basically says nothing new, no one can any longer pretend the science isnt there. Delaying cleanup any longer is inexcusable, Stockman said.


Theres a huge breakdown of communication between the agencies that are supposed to be cleaning up the area, said Renae Bonnett, a Poca resident who has been working to get her community cleaned-up for about 15 years. People who have jobs in the agencies seem to be inactive on this issue. They just wait for volunteers to light a fire under them. This report should light that fire. The agencies should finally understand they need to communicate with another and take action now. So many peoples health and well being depends on it.


Besides cancer, dioxin can also cause developmental and immune effects at levels close to those currently found in the general population. Every American eats dioxin when they consume fatty foods, and nearly every American has measurable levels of this chemical in their body.


The first health assessment of dioxin was in 1985," said Lois Gibbs, Executive Director of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ).  Gibbss struggle to clean up dioxin in her Niagara Falls, NY community at Love Canal has been credited with launching the grassroots environmental health movement. During the late 1990s, when OVEC members were working to defeat a proposed pulp mill that would have spewed dioxin into West Virginias air and water, Gibbs came to Huntington to educate the public about the dangerous toxin.


Over the past 21 years, chlorine-based industries have demanded reviews, reassessments and analysis.  Each re-assessment and review affirmed the findings and newer scientific data continues to strengthen the conclusions that dioxin is a serious public health threat. The chlorine-based industry is following the tobacco industry's strategies to keep information from the public. Enough is enoughlet's get on with establishing health protective regulations around dioxin discharges and clean ups, said Gibbs.


Dioxin is a known human carcinogen, active in the body at very small levels. Scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have long concluded dioxin is highly toxic, but a strong coalition of industries responsible for generating the byproduct toxicant have successfully stalled progress on a 15-year study of the chemical. The EPA studycalled the Dioxin Reassessmentstill remains a draft, which has stymied the agencys development of federal regulations.  However, EPA recently set a major precedent when they set the soil clean up goal for dioxin at 30 parts per trillion (ppt) at the Escambia Wood Treating Co. Superfund site in Pensacola, FL.

The NA review was the result of a last-minute amendment to the 2003 EPA appropriations bill which required NA to review EPA's reassessment if a White House interagency task force did not reach consensus on its review of the draft report.  This NA review is the latest in a series of reviews largely orchestrated by the powerful set of industries that generate dioxin including some chemical manufacturers, pulp and paper companies, smelting and incinerator companies.


The fingerprints of the chlorine-based industry have been evident in earlier scientific reviews, and there is concern about this review as well, said Stephen Lester, CHEJ Science Director. In past reviews a major point of debate advocated by dioxin generating industries has been the use of a model to calculate cancer risk that assumes some dioxin exposures are too small to cause harma dangerous approach which EPA has repeatedly rejected in the past.  The debate over the validity of this model has been injected into every review for over 18 years by dioxin-generating industries and has led to repeated delays in finalizing the report.


Dioxin has been found in milk, cheese, beef, pork, fish, chicken, birds, deer, turkey, squirrel, and worms, as well as soil and sewage sludge.


For more information, see "Chronological History of US EPA's Public Health Assessment of Dioxin" and "Dioxin Fact Sheet" at www.chej.org/dioxin.


For more on the dioxin problems at Poca, see: www.ohvec.org/galleries/people_in_action/2000/06_09/index.html.


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