DIOXIN: EPA Report of the Carcinogen Creates Concerns
Although well-established as a significant health hazard, the EPA declared for the first time yesterday that dioxin may cause cancer and that Americans are largely exposed to the chemical through their food supply, the Los Angeles Times reports. Dioxin originates primarily from waste incineration and plastic and paper production and can enter the food supply through contaminated water and soil. Despite reporting that the levels of dioxin in the atmosphere have decreased significantly in the past 20 years thanks to emission controls, the EPA noted that "the risks to people may be somewhat higher than previously believed, even though actual exposure seems to be declining among the general population." The report also indicated that the U.S. food supply is "among the safest and most nutritious in the world." Comments in the brief stating that Americans should resort to a diet with less fat to decrease their risk of exposure outraged some groups, including the Falls Church, Va.-based Center for Health, Environment and Justice. Center official Monica Rhode contested, "This should not be about a fat-free diet for Americans but a dioxin-free diet for polluters." In addition, the Empire State Restaurant Association representing 5,000 New York restaurants has filed a federal lawsuit to block the release of a final dioxin report, fearing that Americans will refuse to eat the beef, fish and poultry many restaurants sell. In 1999, several European countries restricted chicken, egg and butter sales from farms following reports that dioxin had entered the food supply through contaminated animal feed. Dioxin has been linked to several human lymphomas and lung cancer. The EPA plans to release a final report in the fall after further scientific review of the substance (Cimons, 6/13).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.