Post by Lynn Thorp, National Campaigns Coordinator, Clean Water Action
Dioxin is actually a family of chemicals created when materials containing carbon and chlorine are burned together. No one makes dioxin on purpose, but since carbon and chlorine are present in many processes and products dioxin ends up in the environment at levels of great concern.
Way back in 1991, EPA began to take another look at dioxin because scientific evidence was mounting that it was more cancer-causing than previously thought. Analyzing that information would have led the agency to crack down on dioxin sources, which include incinerators that burn garbage and medical waste and many other facilities. In 2001, EPA's own Science Advisory Board, made up of experts from many fields, urged the Agency to release the Reassessment and get on with the business of controlling dioxin.
Powerful industries responsible for dioxin contamination have successfully delayed this reassessment since then. The sick joke is on them, because it's widely recognized that dioxin not only the most potent cancer-causing chemical we know of but that it causes a wide array of health affects at levels already present in the bodies of pretty much the whole world's population. Every time the information is reviewed, we find out that dioxin causes more kinds of health effects, that's it is dangerous at lower levels and that's it occurs in our bodies and in the environment more than we thought. Release of the Reassessment will demonstrate the need to act with no room for doubt.
The dioxin story points to many of the flaws in our regulatory system, but most of all to undue influence by polluters and to obstruction of the ability of our government to act on scientific information. With the world acting to eliminate dioxin, our chemical policy on the legislative agenda and with a new Administration in place now is the time to get the dioxin reassessment out and act on it. In her letter to EPA staff, incoming EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson wrote "Science must be the backbone for EPA programs....It is now time to revise and strengthen EPA's chemicals management and risk assessment programs." We could not agree more.