by Mike Schade - PVC Campaign Coordinator- Center for Health and Environmental Justice (CHEJ)
CHEJ has been at the frontlines of fighting dioxin pollution for decades and is a valued member of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.
We Did It!
After nearly 30 years of delays and interference from the chemical industry, the EPA finalized a critical portion of their report on the noncancer health hazards of dioxin. Dioxin is widely recognized as one of the most persistent toxic chemicals on the planet. Dioxin’s so toxic it’s been targeted for international phase out by over 170 nations across the world, except the United States. The production and disposal of chlorinated chemicals and materials such as PVC plastic and TCE are key sources of dioxin in America.
"...the agency [EPA] set a safety level or “reference dose” for dioxin. This is a big deal as infants and young children are being exposed to unacceptable levels of dioxin"
What’d They Find?
For the first time ever, in EPA’s new dioxin noncancer report, the agency set a safety level or “reference dose” for dioxin. This is a big deal as infants and young children are being exposed to unacceptable levels of dioxin higher than EPA’s new safety level, which may be causing adverse health effects.
No wonder the chemical industry didn’t want EPA to release this report!
The release of the EPA’s health report received praise from environmental health groups across America. The Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ)’s founder and Executive Director, Lois Gibbs, has been working on dioxin for over 30 years ever since she and her neighbors organized to be relocated from the dioxin-contaminated Love Canal community. She had this to say:
“We applaud EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and the Obama Administration for finalizing this important health report on dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals on the planet. After twenty seven years of delays, I quite honestly never thought this report would ever see the light of day. Today the American people won a major victory against the chemical industry, who has been working behind closed doors for decades to hide and distort the truth about the dangers of dioxin. The science is clear: dioxin is toxic to our children’s health and development.”
To finish the job, EPA is now working on finalizing the cancer portion of their dioxin health assessment. We’re calling on EPA to now set a clear timeline to finish the cancer section, finalize their proposed cleanup goals for dioxin contaminated sites, and come up with a comprehensive plan of action to reduce dioxin emissions and exposures.
How We Did It:
EPA has been under enormous pressure by a broad coalition of organizations to release the dioxin report ever since President Obama entered office. Because of the work we did together this report was a success:
- In January, we delivered a letter to EPA Administrator Jackson signed by over 2,000 organizations and individuals.
- Over the past few months a broad coalition of organizations wrote to EPA (many of which are members of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families campaign) urging the agency to finalize this report.
- In January, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), sent EPA a letter urging the agency to finalize this dioxin assessment. In April, Rep. Markey and 72 members of Congress sent a letter to EPA calling on the agency to release the report.
"We’re calling on EPA to now set a clear timeline to finish the cancer section, finalize their proposed cleanup goals for dioxin contaminated sites, and come up with a comprehensive plan of action to reduce dioxin emissions and exposures."
The Chemical Industry Delay Game:
At the same time, for nearly 30 years, the chemical industry has worked tirelessly behind closed doors to prevent EPA from releasing their health report on dioxin, and launched an aggressive campaign in recent months to press EPA to back off, just like they’ve done on many other chemicals of concern. On one hand the chemical industry would publicly say they support EPA’s efforts to assess the toxicity of dioxin, and then at the same time they’d push for more studies, more reviews, and even more delays.
Hmmm that sounds kind of similar to their tactics on TSCA reform, no?
Simple Steps to Reduce Dioxin Exposure:
Dioxin is building up in our bodies as a result of the food we eat. To help reduce our exposure, we’ve prepared these top seven tips for reducing exposure to dioxin in food:
- Eat less animal fat — buy lean meats and poultry – and cut off the fat before cooking.
- Eat fat free dairy products – or as low as you can – for dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.
- Fish is a healthy food choice – but fish are also affected, so avoid fatty fish (such as salmon) and cut the fat off before cooking and eating.
- Purchase food products that have been grain or grass fed. Farm animals fed food with animal products that includes other animal’s fat increases the amount of dioxin ingested by livestock and increases the amount of dioxin that is in the consumer meat product.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Breast feed your babies – breast milk is still the healthiest food for your baby.
- Call your Senators and ask them to support the Safe Chemicals Act, which would take an upstream approach to preventing dioxin from being created in the first place.
Resources to Learn More:
- EPA’s new dioxin health report.
- Fact-sheet on the hazards of dioxin.
- Frequently asked questions about dioxin in food.