Food Industry, Farmers Urge EPA to Ease Dioxin Guidelines

According to the Wall Street Journal, the food industry and farmers in the U.S. are pushing for the Obama administration to reconsider federal guidelines that will detail how much dioxins Americans can be exposed to. The Environmental Protection Agency will likely be releasing the guidelines for dioxins this month.

People are normally exposed to the potentially harmful chemicals through meat and dairy consumption. This has prompted concern from restaurants, farmers, and grocers that the EPA will set the limit below what the average American already receives from food, ultimately causing unnecessary alarm to consumers. Here are some facts about dioxins.

* Dioxins are a group of environmental pollutants that accumulate in the food chain, most notably in the fatty tissues of animals, and more than 90 percent of human exposure is through food, according to the World Health Organization.

* In high enough amounts, dioxins are highly toxic and linked to developmental and reproductive issues, as well as immune system damage, cancer and interfering with hormones.

* The Washington State Department of Health reported the group of chemicals can come from natural sources, like brush and forest fires, but more commonly man-made sources, including chemical manufacturing and waste incineration.

* Dioxins are very stable compounds and could pose a higher risk to children due to their body size and the fact that their bodies are still developing.

* The chemical was found in numerous headlines in 2004 after Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko was deliberately poisoned with dioxin while running for office, noted the Associated Press.

* The concentration of dioxin in Yushchenko’s blood was more than 6,000 times higher than the normal amount and is the second highest ever recorded in medical history.

* The American Cancer Society noted small amounts of dioxins were found in Agent Orange used during the Vietnam War as a defoliant.

* Veterans returning from Vietnam reported health problems like skin rashes, cancer and handicaps and birth defects in their children and dioxin levels were found to be higher in those who served in Vietnam when compared to those who served elsewhere.

* According to the EPA, the agency released its first dioxins report in September 1985 and launched the Dioxin Exposure Initiative, a research program aimed at the human health impacts of the chemicals, in September 1994.

* The guidelines being released this month follow work on a comprehensive reassessment of dioxin exposure and revisions in light of the review from the National Academy of Sciences back in 2004.

Rachel Bogart provides an in-depth look at current environmental issues and local Chicago news stories. As a college student from the Chicago suburbs pursuing two science degrees, she applies her knowledge and passion to both topics to garner further public awareness.

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