New assessment of dioxin cancer risk needed: study
By Deborah Zabarenko
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The cancer risk from the chemical
dioxin — present in some U.S. soil, food supplies and most
Americans’ bodies — needs to be reassessed by the
Environmental Protection Agency before it sets a new standard
for cleanup, a U.S. scientific panel reported on Tuesday.
Experts assembled by the National Academies’ National
Research Council confirmed many of the findings of a 2003
report on dioxin by the EPA, which found dioxin causes cancer
and reproductive and immune-system disorders in humans.
Even though the EPA draft report was made public three
years ago, its findings were not reflected in policy, letting a
lower cleanup standard stay in force.
The National Academies panel said at a briefing that the
EPA’s recommended standards — which are as much as 10 times
more stringent than the current ones — should be applied
within a year or so, with no further data-gathering required.
“We’re clearing the way for EPA to release this report,”
said panel chairman David Eaton, a professor at the University
of Washington, Seattle. “Our recommendation is not to go back
and start over.”
Dioxin and related chemicals have raised concern since the
1970s, when they were found in the herbicide Agent Orange, used
by U.S. forces in the Vietnam War. These chemicals also are
by-products of various industries, including paper and pulp
production, incinerators and businesses that use chlorine.
Dioxin and dioxin-like compounds stay in the environment,
allowing them to build up in the food chain. Most Americans
ingest dioxin when they eat fatty foods including beef, pork,
fish and dairy products, and others are exposed to the chemical
on the job or by accident, the National Academies panel noted.
The Boston-based Center for Health, Environment and Justice
hailed the National Academies report in a statement and accused
industries that use chlorine of stalling enforcement of higher
“The first health assessment of dioxin was in 1985,” the
center’s executive director, Lois Gibbs, said in the statement.
“Over the past 21 years, chlorine-based industries have
demanded reviews, reassessments and analysis. … Enough is
enough. Let’s get on with establishing health protective