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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 direction.

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 population exposures.'**

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."

Background Materials:

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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.


1As estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [0.6 pg-TEQ/kg-body weight/day]
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 Chemicals.
*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.

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