July 1, 2003
Statement of the Chlorine
Chemistry Division of the American Chemistry Council On Dioxin
in the Food Supply
C. T. "Kip" Howlett, Jr., Executive Director
of the Chlorine Chemistry Division of the American Chemistry
Council, released the following statement today:
"In 2001, the National Academies determined that the 'evolving
nature of dioxin knowledge and awareness' warranted an evaluation
of the scientific evidence of the impact of dioxin and dioxin-like
compounds on the safety of the U.S. food supply. The final
report from the Academies' Institute of Medicine (IOM), issued
today, confirms that the U.S. food supply is among the safest
in the world. Based on minimal and continually declining amounts
of dioxin in the food supply, we wholeheartedly agree. The
report recommends, and we support, reducing animal forage
and feed contamination and establishing a nationwide data
collection effort on the levels of dioxin-like compounds in
these substances. Enforcement of laws to halt illegal disposal
of hazardous waste would be a significant step in the right
According to IOM, 'Dioxin levels in the environment have
declined dramatically in recent decades-by as much as 76 percent
since the 1970s, according to some measurements. Dioxin levels
in foods have decreased greatly as well.' Data from the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show a 92 percent reduction
in dioxin emissions from 1987 levels. EPA data track dioxin
emissions from all quantified sources and show more than a
65 percent reduction in emissions from 1995 levels alone.
The chlorine industry, a small and declining source of dioxin
in the environment, reported emissions of just 30 grams-TEQ*
of dioxin in EPA's 2001 Toxics Release Inventory.
Mirroring dramatic declines in industrial dioxin emissions,
human exposure to dioxin in foods- the most common route of
exposure-also has been dramatically reduced. A study published
this year in the journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology
estimated that the average American has a seven-fold lower
'body burden' (a person's level of exposure) of dioxin today
than was the case 30 years ago, and that the levels will continue
to decline for at least the next two decades. These trends,
the study says, '.do not indicate a public health basis for
actions in reducing food levels [of dioxin] and thus, general
From a regulatory perspective, the dioxin intake level of
the average U.S. resident1 is below tolerable
levels set by several respected public health agencies using
adequate safety factors2. And according to
a recent report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, actual blood levels of dioxin in the average U.S.
resident are below the level of analytical detection3.
Monitoring animal feed is a critical step in reducing human
exposure to dioxin and dioxin-like compounds because 95 percent
of exposure to these compounds occurs through the diet. When
illegally disposed hazardous waste contaminates components
of animal feed, such as natural clays, elevated concentrations
of dioxin and dioxin-like compounds may impact the food supply.
Currently, EPA estimates that the largest source of dioxin
in the environment is backyard trash burning, a largely illegal
but common practice in many rural areas. In addition, there
are many natural sources of dioxin, such as forest fires,
from which it can be assumed that humans have always been
exposed to dioxin. These natural sources will continue to
inject a small but finite 'baseline' quantity of dioxin into
the environment-and thus into the food supply.
The Chlorine Chemistry Division of the American Chemistry
Council supports efforts to better understand the role that
dioxins play in human health and the environment. Along with
our member companies, we are working to further reduce dioxin
emissions, while at the same time provide the building blocks
of chlorine chemistry that help produce essential products
that make our lives safer, healthier and more convenient."
The Chlorine Chemistry Division of the
American Chemistry Council is a national trade association
based in Arlington, VA representing the manufacturers and
users of chlorine and chlorine-related products. Chlorine
is widely used as a disease-fighting disinfection agent, as
a basic component in pharmaceuticals and myriad other products
that are essential to modern life.
by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [0.6 pg-TEQ/kg-body
2These include the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World
Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additive, the
European Commission Scientific Committee on Food, and the
U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
3U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(2003). National Center for Environmental Health Publication
No. 02-0716: Second National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental
*TEQ (toxic equivalent) is a quantitative measure
of the combined toxicity of a mixture of dioxin-like chemicals.
**Hays, S.M. and Aylward, L.L. (2003). Dioxin risks
in perspective: past, present, and future. Regulatory Toxicology
and Pharmacology, 37, pp. 202-17.