Pressure is growing on EPA to make good on their promises to finalize their long-delayed Dioxin Reassessment.
Rep. Markey (D-MA) today sent a strongly-worded letter to EPA today responding to the recent pressure from the chemical industry.
Markey’s press release and letter to EPA are below:
Markey to EPA: No More Delays on Dioxin Health Assessment
Latest data indicates levels of toxic chemical rapidly increasing in the atmosphere
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee and senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, today sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson requesting the finalization and release of the two decades-delayed health assessment of dioxin. The EPA’s recent release of the latest Toxicity Release Inventory indicates air releases of dioxin rose 10 percent from 2009 to 2010 and total disposal or other releases, such as landfill disposal, increased 18 percent. Exposure to dioxin causes a wide range of health impacts and has been associated with delays in motor skills and neurodevelopment in children, as well as impacts on hormones that regulate growth, metabolism and reproduction. Dioxin also has been classified as a human carcinogen.
Despite this recent analysis, industry groups, including the American Chemistry Council, whose operations would be affected by any limits on dioxin releases into the environment, are pressuring the EPA to even further delay release of the reassessment with unnecessary additional reviews.
“The American public has been waiting for the completion of this dioxin study since 1985 and cannot afford any further delays,” writes Rep. Markey in the letter to the EPA. “I strongly urge you to reject industry’s call for further delays and meet your schedule of finalizing the non-cancer portion of the dioxin reanalysis by the end of this month.”
Text of the letter to EPA Administrator Jackson can be found below.
“Despite worldwide agreement about the toxicity of these chemicals and their persistence in the environment, EPA has yet to release its findings on how dangerous these chemicals are to public health,” said Rep. Markey in separate comments. “A baby born on the day the EPA completed its first draft health assessment would be 27 years old today. I’d like to see the final EPA analysis before it turns 28.”
Dioxin is the name given to a group of toxic chemicals that are released as a byproduct of industrial processes and have the ability to accumulate in the food chain and remain in the environment for years. According to the Centers for Disease Control, dioxins are present in the blood of 95 percent of Americans.
The EPA completed its first health assessment of dioxin in 1985, finding that the cancer risk to humans from dioxin exposure is by far the highest defined for any man-made chemical. EPA subsequently began a review of the health impacts of dioxins that has been in process for more than 20 years. During this time both the World Health Organization and the National Toxicology Program have classified dioxin as a human carcinogen.
According to the EPA, over 90 percent of human exposure to dioxin occurs through the diet. Dioxin has also been found in breast milk and in blood samples taken from newborns. Because of the persistence of dioxin, it has been targeted for international phase-out by a treaty signed by 170 nations across the world.
January 10, 2012
The Honorable Lisa P. Jackson
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Ariel Rios Building
Washington, DC 20460
Dear Administrator Jackson:
I thank you for your attention to the environmental and public health issues related to the chemical dioxin over the past three years, and for making the release of the EPA’s long-delayed ‘Dioxin Reassessment’ a priority of your leadership. This scientific assessment of dioxin’s health impacts is important so that any additional steps to protect the public from one of the most toxic chemicals known to science can be taken. The release of EPA’s latest TRI (Toxic Release Inventory) analysis indicates that total disposal or other releases of dioxin increased from 2009-2010. According to EPA’s analysis, air releases of dioxin rose 10 percent from 2009 to 2010 and total disposal or other releases, such as landfill disposal, increased 18 percent. The increase of dioxin in the environment only further supports the need for immediate steps to be taken to protect the public from this dangerous chemical. Therefore, I strongly urge you to move swiftly in releasing the full scientific assessment of dioxin’s health impacts.
Dioxin causes a wide array of adverse health effects and in addition to being associated with increased risk of cancer; dioxin is also linked to reproductive, developmental, immunological, and hormonal impacts in both animals and humans. On April 11, 2011, I along with 72 other members of Congress wrote to you expressing deep concern that the EPA’s Dioxin Reassessment has been delayed time and time again for more than 20 years. Since we wrote to you, the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) issued their final report on August 26, 2011, which reviewed ‘EPA’s Reanalysis of Key Issues Related to Dioxin Toxicity and Response to NAS Comments.’ This reanalysis was first issued in May 2010 and it was my understanding that the SAB’s review of this document was to be among the final steps in the Dioxin Reassessment process. On August 29, 2011, EPA announced its final plan for completing the Dioxin Reassessment. EPA committed to completing the portion of the reassessment relating to non-cancer health impacts and posting it to the IRIS database (an EPA database containing information on human health effects resulting from exposure to various environmental substances) by the end of January 2012 and to then complete the cancer portion of the reanalysis “as quickly as possible.” EPA stated that once the Agency completes both the non-cancer and cancer portions of the reanalysis, the Dioxin Reassessment would be considered final.
I am very concerned that the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and other impacted industry sectors are now pressuring EPA to further delay the release of this important document. In the recent fiscal year 2012 omnibus (H.R. 2055) Congress included text that stated “For draft assessments released in fiscal year 2012, the Agency shall include documentation describing how the Chapter 7 recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) have been implemented or addressed, including an explanation for why certain recommendations were not incorporated.”
Recently the ACC, sent a letter to you asking for the Dioxin Reassessment to be further delayed. In this letter the ACC has inaccurately characterized this omnibus rider language stating that, “to comply with Congress’s direction, EPA should withdraw the dioxin assessment from interagency review and take the necessary steps to implement the NAS recommendations.”
This is a significant misinterpretation of the provision that was enacted. The Dioxin Reassessment was not released in draft form in fiscal year 2012, and therefore this stipulation does not apply to the EPA’s Dioxin Reassessment. The EPA’s draft dioxin health assessment report was written in 1985, with revised drafts issued in 1994, 2000, and 2003. Since then, the Dioxin Reassessment has been in the final stages for close to nine years. In addition, in 2006, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) issued a very detailed report reviewing the EPA’s Dioxin Reassessment. Since the NAS issued its report, the EPA issued a response to the NAS report and formed a Science Advisory Board to review the EPA’s response to the NAS. Prior to that, the EPA had formed three separate science advisory review panels in 1988, 1995, and 2001 to review the draft dioxin report. Additional reviews are not necessary, would be an extreme waste of government resources, are not called for by the omnibus language, and would only serve to further delay the completion of this important public health document.
Therefore, I am writing to strongly urge you to reject industry’s call for further delays and meet your schedule of finalizing the non-cancer portion of the dioxin reanalysis by the end of this month and to finalize the cancer portion as quickly as possible thereafter, as you have pledged. The American public has been waiting for the completion of this dioxin study since 1985 and cannot afford any further delays.
Thank you for your attention to these concerns and for your commitment to protecting human health and the environment.
Edward J. Markey
cc: Cass Sunstein, Administrator, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
Nancy Sutley, Chair, White House Council on Environmtal Quality (CEQ)
Paul Anastas, Assistant Administrator, Office of Research and Development, EPA
Rebecca Clark, Acting Director, National Center for Environmental Assessment,
 IRIS: Integrated Risk Information System