Food Industry Wants to Keep Dioxins in Your Dinner: Report

It's always good to know that the people who raise the nation's livestock and sow the country's crops really want to put health first. Or not.

A group of top U.S. food producers has recently protested the Food and Drug Administration's upcoming demands for tougher dioxin limits in nutritional staples, according to Food Safety News. Dioxins and similar chemicals have been linked to reproductive problems and cancer in lab animals.

Though some dioxins occur naturally, they can enter the environment through industrial activities such as trash incineration, the website reports. Research indicates that humans get most of their dioxin exposure from food.

The group of U.S. food giants worries that the soon-to-come FDA guidelines -- which might set the "safe" level of dioxin exposure at 0.7 picograms daily, compared with the World Health Organization's 1-4 recommended daily picograms -- would make most agricultural products in the country "unfit for consumption."

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The new limits would be 0.7 picograms per kilogram body weight per day, not an absolute 0.7 picograms.  Therefore, a 100 kg person (220 lbs.) could consume 70 pg of dioxin per day, whereas a 50 kg (110 lbs) child could only consume 36 pg per day.


Fantastic story!

In response to this industry pressure, I wanted to make sure you saw this press release from Rep. Markey's office, urging EPA to finalize their study on dioxin.  Best, Mike Schade, CHEJ, / 212.964.3680

ForImmediate Release                          Contact: Giselle Barry202-225-2836

January10, 2012                                                          


Markey to EPA: No More Delays on DioxinHealth Assessment


Latest data indicates levels of toxicchemical rapidly increasing in the atmosphere


WASHINGTON, D.C. – CongressmanEdward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committeeand senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, today sent a letter toEnvironmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson requesting thefinalization and release of the two decades-delayed health assessment of dioxin.The EPA’s recent release of the latest Toxicity Release Inventory indicates airreleases of dioxin rose 10 percent from 2009 to 2010 and total disposal orother releases, such as landfill disposal, increased 18 percent. Exposure todioxin causes a wide range of health impacts and has been associated withdelays in motor skills and neurodevelopment in children, as well as impacts onhormones that regulate growth, metabolism and reproduction. Dioxin also hasbeen classified as a human carcinogen.


Despite this recent analysis,industry groups, including the American Chemistry Council, whose operationswould be affected by any limits on dioxin releases into the environment, arepressuring the EPA to even further delay release of the reassessment with unnecessaryadditional reviews.


“The American public has beenwaiting for the completion of this dioxin study since 1985 and cannot affordany further delays,” writes Rep. Markey in the letter to the EPA. “I stronglyurge you to reject industry’s call for further delays and meet your schedule offinalizing the non-cancer portion of the dioxin reanalysis by the end of thismonth.”


Text of the letter to EPAAdministrator Jackson can be found below.


“Despite worldwide agreementabout the toxicity of these chemicals and their persistence in the environment,EPA has yet to release its findings on how dangerous these chemicals are topublic health,” said Rep. Markey in separate comments. “A baby born on the daythe EPA completed its first draft health assessment would be 27 years oldtoday. I’d like to see the final EPA analysis before it turns 28.”


Dioxin is the name given to agroup of toxic chemicals that are released as a byproduct of industrial processesand have the ability to accumulate in the food chain and remain in theenvironment for years. According to the Centers for Disease Control, dioxinsare present in the blood of 95 percent of Americans.


The EPA completed its firsthealth assessment of dioxin in 1985, finding that the cancer risk to humansfrom 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 beenin process for more than 20 years. During this time both the World HealthOrganization and the National Toxicology Program have classified dioxin as ahuman carcinogen.


According to the EPA, over 90percent of human exposure to dioxin occurs through the diet. Dioxin has alsobeen found in breast milk and in blood samples taken from newborns. Because ofthe persistence of dioxin, it has been targeted for international phase-out bya treaty signed by 170 nations across the world.




January 10, 2012



The Honorable Lisa P.Jackson


U.S. EnvironmentalProtection Agency

1200 Ariel Rios Building

Washington, DC20460                                                                                              


Dear Administrator Jackson:


           I thank you for your attention to the environmental and public health issuesrelated to the chemical dioxin over the past three years, and for making therelease of the EPA's long-delayed ‘Dioxin Reassessment’ a priority of yourleadership. This scientific assessment of dioxin’s health impacts is importantso that any additional steps to protect the public from one of the most toxicchemicals known to science can be taken. The release of EPA’s latest TRI (ToxicRelease Inventory) analysis indicates that total disposal or other releases ofdioxin increased from 2009-2010. According to EPA’s analysis, air releases ofdioxin 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 theenvironment only further supports the need for immediate steps to be taken toprotect the public from this dangerous chemical. Therefore, I strongly urge youto move swiftly in releasing the full scientific assessment of dioxin’s healthimpacts. 


Dioxincauses a wide array of adverse health effects and in addition to beingassociated with increased risk of cancer; dioxin is also linked toreproductive, developmental, immunological, and hormonal impacts in bothanimals and humans. On April 11, 2011, I along with 72 other members ofCongress wrote to you expressing deep concern that the EPA’s DioxinReassessment has been delayed time and time again for more than 20 years.[1]  Since we wrote to you, the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) issued theirfinal report on August 26, 2011, which reviewed ‘EPA’s Reanalysis of Key IssuesRelated to Dioxin Toxicity and Response to NAS Comments.’[2]  Thisreanalysis was first issued in May 2010 and it was my understanding that theSAB’s review of this document was to be among the final steps in the DioxinReassessment process.  On August 29, 2011, EPA announced its final planfor completing the Dioxin Reassessment.[3]  EPA committedto completing the portion of the reassessment relating to non-cancer healthimpacts and posting it to the IRIS[4] database (an EPA databasecontaining information on human health effects resulting from exposure tovarious environmental substances) by the end of January 2012 and to thencomplete the cancer portion of the reanalysis “as quickly as possible.” EPA stated that once the Agency completes both the non-cancer and cancerportions of the reanalysis, the Dioxin Reassessment would be considered final.


           I am very concerned that the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and otherimpacted industry sectors are now pressuring EPA to further delay the releaseof this important document.  In the recent fiscal year 2012 omnibus (H.R.2055) Congress included text that stated “For draft assessments released infiscal year 2012, the Agency shall include documentation describing how theChapter 7 recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) have beenimplemented or addressed, including an explanation for why certainrecommendations were not incorporated.” 


          Recently the ACC, sent a letter to you asking for the Dioxin Reassessment to befurther delayed.[5] In this letter the ACC has inaccuratelycharacterized this omnibus rider language stating that, “to comply with Congress'sdirection, EPA should withdraw the dioxin assessment from interagency reviewand take the necessary steps to implement the NAS recommendations.”


Thisis a significant misinterpretation of the provision that was enacted.  TheDioxin Reassessment was not released in draft form in fiscal year 2012, andtherefore this stipulation does not apply to the EPA’s DioxinReassessment.  The EPA’s draft dioxin health assessment report was writtenin 1985, with revised drafts issued in 1994, 2000, and 2003.   Sincethen, the Dioxin Reassessment has been in the final stages for close to nineyears. In addition, in 2006, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) issued avery detailed report reviewing the EPA’s Dioxin Reassessment.  Since theNAS issued its report, the EPA issued a response to the NAS report and formed aScience Advisory Board to review the EPA’s response to the NAS.  Prior tothat, the EPA had formed three separate science advisory review panels in 1988,1995, and 2001 to review the draft dioxin report. Additional reviews are notnecessary, would be an extreme waste of government resources, are not calledfor by the omnibus language, and would only serve to further delay thecompletion of this important public health document.


           Therefore, I am writing to strongly urge you to reject industry’s call forfurther delays and meet your schedule of finalizing the non-cancer portion ofthe dioxin reanalysis by the end of this month and to finalize the cancerportion as quickly as possible thereafter, as you have pledged.  TheAmerican public has been waiting for the completion of this dioxin study since1985 and cannot afford any further delays.


Thankyou for your attention to these concerns and for your commitment to protectinghuman health and the environment.




EdwardJ. 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,







[4] IRIS: IntegratedRisk Information System

[5] http://www.americanchemistry.c...