FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 22, 2005
Contact:          Tiffany Harrington
 703-741-5583

 

A Burning Issue for International Dioxin Research Conference

C. T. "Kip" Howlett, Jr., Executive Director of the Chlorine Chemistry Division of the American Chemistry Council, released the following statement today:

"As scientists and policymakers gather this week in Toronto for the international 'Dioxin 2005' conference, Ontario is battling a major source of dioxin to the environment: forest fires. In fact, the northern region of Ontario already has faced more than 1,100 fires this season, a record in almost 30 years. A similar situation is developing in the United States, where the National Interagency Fire Center predicts an above-normal forest fire season in parts of the western U.S.

Over the past three decades, industrial dioxin sources have decreased steadily and significantly in sediments, foods and human tissue, thanks to effective government regulation and the efforts of industry and environmentalists. With industrial sources largely curtailed, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has pinpointed the open burning of trash or "backyard trash burning," as the largest single source of dioxins to the environment today. Yet, research suggests that in the past few years, forest fires probably emitted nearly as much dioxin to the environment as did all U.S. EPA-quantified sources combined, including backyard trash burning. Clearly, scientists and regulators can no longer overlook the substantial contribution of dioxins generated in forest fires.

Much work remains to be done before scientists can fully understand the factors that affect dioxin formation during forest fires, including types of vegetation and location and types of fires. EPA should work to encourage this research and include forest fires in its national dioxin inventory. The Chlorine Chemistry Division of the American Chemistry Council has submitted comments to EPA requesting that the Agency redefine its research agenda to focus on forest fires and other sources that are thought to yield the highest dioxin emissions.

Currently, a panel of experts at the U.S. National Academy of Sciences is reviewing the EPA's reassessment of the health effects of dioxin. The Chlorine Chemistry Division of the American Chemistry Council supports the NAS review, and believes it is crucial to harmonizing EPA's dioxin risk characterization with those of respected public health agencies worldwide. As part of this process, The Chlorine Chemistry Division of the American Chemistry Council also believes EPA must characterize dioxin sources accurately, by acknowledging the potentially huge contribution of forest fires to environmental dioxin levels."

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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.

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