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Big news! EPA Health Report on Dioxin Released After Twenty Seven Years of Delays

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(Falls Church, VA) Today the US EPA has finally released their major report on the noncancer health effects of dioxin, which for the past twenty seven years has been delayed due to interference from the chemical industry.  Environmental and health groups across the country celebrated this important milestone.

“We applaud EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and the Obama Administration for finalizing this important health report on dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals on the planet,” said Lois Marie Gibbs, Executive Director of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ). “After twenty seven years of delays, I quite honestly never thought this report would ever see the light of day.  Today the American people won a major victory against the chemical industry, who has been working behind closed doors for decades to hide and distort the truth about the dangers of dioxin.  The science is clear: dioxin is toxic to our children’s health and development.  We strongly urge the EPA to now finish the job by finishing their review on dioxin and cancer, and to develop a comprehensive action plan to further reduce dioxin emissions and exposures.  To start, the EPA should finalize the EPA’s proposed cleanup standards for dioxin at toxic sites, which have been languishing at the White House OMB since 2010.  We call on the Obama Administration to dust off the prestigious National Academy of Sciences report on dioxin in food to explore innovative policies to reduce the levels of dioxin in the food supply.”

Dioxin is building up in our bodies as a result of the food we eat.   According to EPA over 90% of human exposure to dioxin occurs through our diet.  Dioxin is most prevalent in meat, fish, dairy, and other fatty foods.

EPA has been under enormous pressure by environmental health, environmental justice, labor, health-impacted, and Vietnam Veterans organizations to release the non-cancer health assessment in recent weeks and ever since President Obama entered office.  In January a letter was delivered to EPA Administrator Jackson signed by over 2,000 organizations and individuals.  Over the past month a broad coalition of organizations have written to EPA urging the agency to finalize this report. This includes the Breast Cancer Fund, Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ), Endometriosis Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Greenpeace, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, National Medical Association, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Sierra Club, Vietnam Veterans of America, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Canadian Environmental Law Association, , Clean Water Action, Ecology Center, Edison Wetlands Association, Environmental Working Group, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Healthy Child Healthy World, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, International POPS Elimination Network (IPEN), Ironbound Community Corporation, Kentucky Environmental Foundation, the Lone Tree Council, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Reproductive Health Technologies Project, Science & Environmental Health Network, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, Union of Concerned Scientists, Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign, and Women’s Voices for the Earth.

In January, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee and senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, sent EPA a letter urging the agency to finalize this dioxin assessment.  In April, Rep. Markey and 72 members of Congress sent a letter to EPA calling on the agency to release the report.

Dioxin is a known human carcinogen.  Dioxin also causes a wide range of adverse non-cancer effects including reproductive, developmental, immunological, and endocrine effects in both animals and humans. Animal studies show that dioxin exposure is associated with endometriosis, decreased fertility, the inability to carry pregnancies to term, lowered testosterone levels, decreased sperm counts, birth defects, and learning disabilities.  In children, dioxin exposure has been associated with IQ deficits, delays in psychomotor and neurodevelopment, and altered behavior including hyperactivity. Studies in workers have found lowered testosterone levels, decreased testis size, and birth defects in offspring of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange.

Dioxin’s effects on the immune system of the developing organism appear to be among the most sensitive endpoints studied. Animal studies show decreased immune response and increased susceptibility to infectious disease. In human studies, dioxin was associated with immune system depression and alterations in immune status leading to increased infections.  Dioxin can also disrupt the normal function of hormones—chemical messengers that the body uses for growth and regulation. Dioxin interferes with thyroid levels in infants and adults, alters glucose tolerance, and has been linked to diabetes.

In response to anticipated concerns about dioxin in food, the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) has prepared these top six tips for reducing exposure to dioxin in food:

  1. Eat less animal fat — buy lean meats and poultry – and cut off the fat before cooking.
  2. Eat fat free dairy products – or as low as you can – for dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.
  3. Fish is a healthy food choice – but fish are also affected, so avoid fatty fish (such as salmon) and cut the fat off before cooking and eating.
  4. Purchase food products that have been grain or grass fed.  Farm animals fed food with animal products that includes other animal’s fat increases the amount of dioxin ingested by livestock and increases the amount of dioxin that is in the consumer meat product.
  5. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  6. Breast feed your babies – breast milk is still the healthiest food for your baby.

According to EPA, dioxin releases increased by 18% from 2009-2010 nationally.  Dioxin air releases increased by 10%.  Some of the top U.S. companies that reported releasing dioxin into the environment in 2010 were Dow Chemical, Missouri Chemical Works, Gerdau Ameristeel, Lehigh Southwest Cement, Formosa Plastics Corporation, Temple-Inland, Cahaba Pressure Treated Forest Products, and Clean Harbors Aragonite.  Three of these facilities make chemicals to produce polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic. Municipal waste incinerators, medical waste incinerators, landfill fires, and backyard burn barrels are some of the other top sources of dioxin in America.

For a copy of EPA’s new dioxin health report, visit http://www.epa.gov/dioxin

For a fact-sheet on the hazards of dioxin, visit http://chej.org/wp-content/uploads/Documents/Dioxin%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

For frequently asked questions about dioxin in food, visit http://chej.org/wp-content/uploads/Frequently-Asked-Questions-About-Dioxin-and-Food.pdf

For a detailed history of dioxin delays, visit: http://chej.org/wp-content/uploads/DioxinTimeframeFebruary2012.pdf

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Urgent Action! Sign our Dioxin Letter to EPA

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We need your help now. For over 25 years, the EPA’s report on dioxin has been delayed time after time due to pressure by the chemical industry.  Dioxin is one of the most toxic chemicals known to science and is building up in our bodies.

The EPA is on the verge of finalizing a crucial part of their dioxin study, which they’ve pledged to do by the end of this month. Help us make sure they keep their promise!

TAKE ACTION – Sign our letter to EPA!

Dioxin is a potent cancer-causing chemical.  Almost every man, woman and child in the U.S. has potentially harmful levels of this carcinogen in their bodies.  Even babies are born pre-polluted with dioxin.EPA needs to hear from you because dioxin has been linked to health problems in children and adults including learning disabilities, endometriosis, decreased fertility, birth defects, cancer, and more.

We need your help today because the chemical industry, led by the American Chemistry Council, is doing all they can to get the EPA to back down.

We need to get thousands of people to sign our letter, which we will send to EPA next week.

Will you join us by signing our letter to EPA?

We’ll make sure your voice is counted.

Yours for a toxic-free future,

Mike Schade, PVC Campaign Coordinator
Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ)

Guess what you had for breakfast this morning?

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Dioxin is the most toxic man-made substance on earth…and you have some for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.

Dioxin is the most toxic man-made substance on earth...and you have some for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.

Dioxin is pervasive in fish, beef, milk, poultry, pork and eggs.  Even infants get dioxin in breast milk.

Over 1,000 people have signed our dioxin letter to EPA.  Will you join them? We plan to hand deliver the letter to EPA next week!

Dioxin is a known cause of cancer. Learning disabilities, birth defects, endometriosis, and diabetes have all been linked to dioxin exposure.  Dioxin weakens the human immune system and decreases the level of the male hormone testosterone.

Dioxin impacts all of us.  Almost every man, woman and child in the U.S. have measurable levels of dioxin in their bodies.

We’re up against some of the biggest chemical companies in the world, companies like Dow Chemical that have been spewing dioxin into our communities, which ends up in our food.

Can you sign our letter to EPA? We need your help now.

Yours for a toxic-free future,

Mike Schade, PVC Campaign Coordinator
Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ)