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Reducing Dioxin Exposure

Earth Alert # 5
August 1999

Take Personal and Political action to reach the goals of Earth Day.

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Dioxin is found everywhere from soil to food and breast milk. Dioxin is the common name for a family of chemicals with similar properties and toxicity. These chemicals are the unintended by-products of industrial processes that involve chlorine, or processes that burn chlorine with organic matter. For example, dioxin is produced at paper mills that use chlorine bleach in the paper making process and in the production of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) plastics.

Since dioxin is fat-soluble, it bioaccumulates up the food chain and is mainly found in meat and dairy products. In fact, fish alone carry 100,000 times the dioxin level found in the surrounding environment in their bodies.

There is massive evidence that dioxin is a severely toxic substance. It is classified as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization. In October 1997, the Board of Scientific Counselors to the National Toxicology Program also classified dioxin as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." This is the strongest classification for a carcinogen in the United States. Still, the government has done little to limit citizens’ exposure to it. For over ten years activists have put pressure on the EPA to release its final assessment of dioxin and take the necessary measures to reduce citizen exposure to it. It has stalled at every turn.

Personal Action

Eliminate Your Use Of Chlorine-Based Paper Products

Each year, the paper industry releases over four million tons of organochlorines - a major dioxin source - into waterways worldwide. One of the simplest things you can do to minimize dioxin exposure, and to discourage its use, is to avoid chlorine-bleached paper products.

* Buy glass-bottled milk rather than that packaged in paper cartons,

* Use natural cotton/non-chlorine bleached tampons,

* Use cloth towels and napkins, and

* Purchase unbleached recycled school paper for your kids.

Attend Local Meetings and Write The EPA

* The Center for Health, Environment and Justice will hold a series of public meetings with local officials this fall and winter. These meetings will promote the "American Peoples Dioxin Reassessment" and demand the release of the EPA's assessment on dioxin. Currently, meetings are scheduled in the following cities: Oakland, Calif., Minneapolis, Minn., East Liverpool, Ohio, Boston, Mass., Newark, NJ, Detroit, Mich., Rochester, NY, Atlanta, Ga., Chicago, Ill., Hartford, Conn., Baton Rouge, La., Matthews, NC, Jacksonville, Fla., Birmingham, Ala., Columbus, Ohio, Seattle, Wash., Missoula, Mont.; and cities to be announced in Texas, Maine and Pennsylvania. Attend one of these local meeting or volunteer to host your own. For more information on public meetings in your community, call The Center for Health, Environment and Justice/The Stop Dioxin Exposure Campaign (703)237-2249 or visit their website at <http://www.essential.org/cchw/>.

* Write a letter to EPA Administrator Carol Browner demanding the immediate release of the EPA's dioxin reassessment.


Administrator Carol Browner

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

401 M Street SW

Washington, DC 20460


Dear Ms. Browner,

I am writing to urge you to complete the reassessment of dioxin that EPA has been working on for over ten years and release it to the public without further delay.

Dioxin is an industrial by-product that poses serious threats to both public health and the environment. In 1997, the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that there was sufficient evidence from human studies to classify dioxin as a "known human carcinogen," the "highest" level of certainty. In June 1998, the World Health Organization acknowledged that dioxin exposure is linked to severe health effects and lowered its "daily tolerable intake" standard for dioxin by more than half. Even your own agency has stated that the average American adult's body is at or near full of dioxin. Yet, as long as the dioxin reassessment is held up within the EPA, our community and our families continue to be exposed to this dangerous chemical.

Your agency has said that the delay is due to the amount of new information on the health effects and sources of dioxin. Further research will yield additional data, but the message in that data -– that dioxin can and is causing serious health problems in animals and humans -– will not change. I urge you to do your part in assuring the dioxin reassessment is released immediately take the necessary measures to reduce citizen exposure to dioxin.


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march 2000

©1999 Earth Day 2000