Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Report on Dioxin Scrutinized EPA Will Hold off on New Regulations

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Report on Dioxin Scrutinized EPA Will Hold off on New Regulations

Article excerpt

A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency linking dioxin to cancer and other health problems could speed a government crackdown on dioxin pollution and threaten construction of new waste incinerators.

The report's conclusion that any amount of dioxin can cause problems suggests that the evacuation of Times Beach because of low levels of dioxin was justified.

But Dr. Lynn Goldman, assistant EPA administrator, said Tuesday that no new regulations on incinerators that burn trash, hospital waste or hazardous materials would be recommended until the public and more scientists had the chance to study the 2,000-page report and make recommendations.

"It is not a public health emergency," Goldman said at a news conference issuing the report. "It is certainly a public health concern."

She conceded that, despite a three-year effort and input from more than 100 scientists, the government still has "significant data gaps that are critical to our understanding and effective management of dioxin."

Nonetheless, Goldman said the new study "would indicate that these cancer risks from dioxin are of sufficient concern that we need to be pursuing regulatory efforts to reduce emissions." And if the findings are upheld, she said, EPA efforts to control dioxin could change significantly.

The report corroborates a disputed 1985 EPA study that concluded that dioxin causes cancer in animals and probably in humans. The new findings go beyond the earlier report by linking dioxin to other health problems, including developmental and reproductive problems and immune system suppression. The report notes that nursing infants run particular risks from exposure to dioxin.

Dioxin is a class of unwanted chemical compounds that work their way into the food chain after being created primarily from the burning of chlorinated materials. Dioxins are found in fish, meat and dairy products and may lead to undesirable effects after being stored in fatty tissues.

About 95 percent of dioxin comes from waste burning, primarily waste from medical and municipal incinerators.

Goldman was asked at the news conference if the recent EPA findings should be an important factor in deciding whether or not cities and towns should proceed with building trash incinerators. …

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