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EPA Dioxin Assessment: Essential Advancement for Human Health

For Immediate Release: 
Friday, February 17, 2012

Washington, D.C. – The Environmental Protection Agency today released its safety standard for dioxin toxicity for risks other than cancer, a crucial advance in protecting Americans from exposure to this ubiquitous industrial pollutant.

“Our bodies, our children’s bodies and our food supply have all been contaminated with dioxin for decades as a result of unregulated industrial emissions,” said Olga Naidenko, PhD, senior scientist with the Environmental Working Group. “Today’s decision will serve as the cornerstone of the agency’s initiatives to protect public health from chemical contaminants and provide the necessary guidance to states and public health agencies to minimize dioxin exposure.”

The U.S. government labeled 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, or TCDD, a known human carcinogen in 2001. Other serious health hazards of dioxin exposure, particularly during early life, are changes in the neurological and immune systems as well as reproductive and hormonal disorders such as decreased sperm count and motility in men exposed to TCDD as boys.

EWG has conducted extensive research on dioxin pollution in people since 2003. EWG's body burden studies have found TCDD and other chlorinated dioxins and furans in blood samples from all 34 Americans tested and in every cord blood sample collected from 20 newborns at the moment of birth.

Dioxins, a pollution product of metal processing, incinerators and paper bleaching, build up in the food chain by accumulating in fat and other animal tissues. Meat, fish, milk, eggs, butter and other common foods are widely contaminated with dioxins. Exposures begin in the womb when dioxins cross the placenta and continue as newborn infants ingest them in breast milk and formula.

EWG analysis has found that the amount of dioxin a nursing infant consumes daily can be 15 to 77 times higher than the limit EPA considers safe to protect the endocrine and immune systems from dioxin toxicity.

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EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. http://www.ewg.org

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