The American people will panic if they find out there is dangerous levels of dioxin in their food. That’s the argument the chemical and food industries are using to stop the release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) scientific report on dioxin.   Really. . . do they really think people will panic rather than take steps to protect their families?  The American people didn’t panic and not place their children in vehicles when they learned that more kids are injured in auto collisions than in any other type of accident. Parents installed safety seats.

The EPA’s dioxin report has been meticulously peer reviewed and is scientifically sound.  Yet, the power of the corporations that are responsible for dioxin in our environment and food has kept this critical scientific information (over 20 years of study) from reaching the public.  Consequently, the public is unable to make personal decisions about what foods they’ll eat and how best to reduce their families’ risks.

Dioxin, a known cancer causing and endocrine-disruptor chemical, is a byproduct of combustion and various industrial processes and is found everywhere in the environment. Chlorinated dioxins are released into the air and travel great distances landing on fields, pastures and waterways from waste incineration, burning household waste and a variety of industrial processes, including smelting, chlorine paper bleaching, PVC plastics and pesticide manufacturing. When animals graze in the pastures or eat feed that has animal byproducts, they ingest dioxin which is then stored in their fat.  So when little Joey drinks his whole milk, he also ingests dioxin contained in the milk’s fat.

Ninety percent of the public’s body burden of dioxin comes primarily from animal fat in the food supply.  The Environmental Working Group has found that the amount of dioxin a nursing infant ingests daily is up to 77 times higher than the level EPA has proposed to protect the endocrine and immune systems. The fact that both breast milk and infant formula are contaminated with dioxin highlights the urgent need for EPA to release its report.  For cancer risk, the situation is also concerning because the general public is exposed to up to 1,200 times more dioxin than regulatory agencies typically consider safe.

Parents place bike helmets on their children, fasten their seat belts, and take their babies for regular checkups because they understand the risks of not taking these steps.  However, everyone is being kept in the dark when it comes to dioxin in our food.  For example, breast milk contains fairly high levels of dioxin.  Nevertheless breast milk is still the healthiest food for baby.  EPA must release this information to new mothers so they know that nursing is the healthiest option.

Whose protection is our public agencies’ priority?

Recently, there has been an increased lobbying effort by various industries to stop the release of the EPA’s dioxin report. The International Dairy Foods Association, for example, wrote EPA a letter stating, “Animal products, such as milk and dairy foods, have the highest concentrations of dioxins, albeit at levels that are only in the parts-per-million and clearly below levels that have been determined to be unsafe. However, EPA’s proposed values for evaluating dioxin, if translated publicly to a “reference dose,” would scare consumers away from our products, and this would be contrary to the government’s own dietary guidance to consume three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy each day in order to get essential nutrients found in milk and dairy.”

Releasing the EPA’s dioxin report will help consumers make choices in food products that are low in fat content (as recommended by government’s dietary guidance) and could educate the dairy lobbyists as well since they got it wrong in their letter. Low fat and fat free products are not the big problem, because dioxin is carried into food products through the fat content.

Consumers should call their federal representatives and urge them to support the release of the EPA’s dioxin report so they can make their own decisions about what is safe.  It is time to stop assuming the American people will not understand and give them the scientific information.