Dioxin Pollution

Dioxin is one of the most toxic chemicals known.
A report released for public comment in
September 1994 by the US Environmental
Protection Agency clearly describes dioxin as a
serious public health threat. The public health
impact of dioxin may rival the impact that DDT
had on public health in the 1960\'s. According to
the EPA report, not only does there appear to be
no "safe" level of exposure to dioxin, but levels of
dioxin and dioxin-like chemicals have been found
in the general US population that are "at or near
levels associated with adverse health effects." The
EPA report confirmed that dioxin is a cancer
hazard to people; that exposure to dioxin can also
cause severe reproductive and developmental
problems (at levels 100 times lower than those
associated with its cancer causing effects); and
that dioxin can cause immune system damage and
interfere with regulatory hormones.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer
[IARC] --part of the World Health Organization
--announced February 14, 1997, that the most
potent dioxin, 2,3,7,8-TCDD, is a now
considered a Class 1 carcinogen, meaning a
"known human carcinogen."

Dioxin is a general term that describes a group of
hundreds of chemicals that are highly persistent in
the environment. The most toxic compound is
2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin or TCDD.
The toxicity of other dioxins and chemicals like
PCBs that act like dioxin are measured in relation
to TCDD. Dioxin is formed as an unintentional
by-product of many industrial processes involving
chlorine such as waste incineration, chemical and
pesticide manufacturing and pulp and paper
bleaching. Dioxin was the primary toxic
component of Agent Orange, was found at Love
Canal in Niagara Falls, NY.

The major sources of dioxin are in our diet. Since
dioxin is fat-soluble, it bioaccumulates up the food
chain and it is mainly (97.5%) found in meat and
dairy products (beef, dairy products, milk,
chicken, pork, fish and eggs in that order... see
chart below). In fish alone, these toxins
bioaccumulate up the food chain so that dioxin
levels in fish are 100,000 times that of the
surrounding environment. The most conspicuous
source of dioxin pollution is from paper mills which
may pollute nearby streams with wastewater. Fish
living downstream from paper processing plants
have been found to contain significant amounts of
dioxin in their tissues.

In EPA\'s dioxin report, they refer to dioxin as
hydrophobic. This means that dioxin, when it
settles on water bodies, will avoid the water and
find a fish to go in to. The same goes for other
wildlife. Dioxin will find animals to go in to,
working its way to the top of the food chain.

Dioxin has been know to cause cancer in many
different cases such as in explosion at a
Hoffman-LaRoche chemical plant in Seveso, Italy,
in 1976. People did not have any signs of cancer
at first. So everyone said look at Seveso dioxin
does not cause cancer. Now a new study in the
journal EPIDEMIOLOGY reveals that people
exposed to dioxin during the Seveso explosion
have begun to exhibit excessive numbers of cancer
cases. Dr. Linda Birnbaum, director of
environmental toxicology for U.S. EPA now says
that this case is just another strike against dioxin.
The area around Seveso has been divided into
three zones, called A, B and R. The small A zone
was most heavily contaminated, but its 724
residents were evacuated. ("Heavy" contamination
means that each square yard of land contained 13
to 494 micrograms of dioxin; a microgram is a
millionth of a gram and there are 28 grams in an
ounce.) The B zone was less heavily contaminated
but its 4824 residents were not evacuated; zone B
contained 43 micrograms of dioxin per square
yard of soil, or less. The R zone was even less
contaminated (average contamination being 4.3
micrograms per square yard), so its 31,647
residents were probably exposed to low levels.
Another 181,579 people living beyond zone R
serve as a control group living in
"noncontaminated" areas. The greatest cancer
increase has occurred in zone B. In zone A the
numbers are small and no significant cancer
increases have occurred. In zone R one kind of
cancer has increased: soft tissue sarcoma.
Previous studies have linked dioxin exposure to
soft tissue sarcoma in humans.

In zone B, among women there has been an
observable increase in cancers of the gall bladder
and bilary tract (the system that delivers bile from
the liver to the small intestine), and in cancers
related to the blood-forming system (multiple
myeloma and myeloid leukemia). Among men in
zone B, there were observable increases in
cancers of the blood-forming system, and in one
kind of non-Hodgkin\'s lymphoma (a cancer of the
lymph system called lymphoreticulosarcoma). This
new study only covers the period 1976 through
1986--10 years after the Seveso accident. Since
most cancers take longer than 10 years to
develop, the cancers