Sperm Burn Out
Your Beauty Products Killing You?
Report By EPA On Hold
Oppose Finding of Cancer Link,
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 12, 2001
chemical, beef and poultry industries are waging an intense
campaign to delay further an Environmental Protection
Agency study showing that consumption of animal fat and
dairy products containing traces of dioxin can cause cancer
scientists and officials say they are confident of the
report's findings, which they began circulating last June,
and are urging EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman
to issue it in final form this summer. But the study,
more than a decade in the works, has drawn such intense
opposition from industry groups and congressional Republicans
that it could be held up for several more years.
any measure, the economic stakes in the dioxin controversy
are high: The EPA's issuance of a final report could result
in federal and state regulations costly to chemical manufacturers.
It also could provide more adverse publicity for the beef
industry at a time of heightened consumer concern about
the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Europe.
groups including the American Chemistry Council, the Chlorine
Chemistry Council, the Chemical Manufacturers Association,
the American Meat Institute and the National Cattlemen's
and Beef Association contend the EPA's study is seriously
flawed and exaggerates the health risk dioxin poses.
are alarmed at any study that reaches conclusions not
based on science," said Gary Weber, executive director
of regulatory affairs for the cattlemen's association.
who have closely followed the issue for years charge that
industry groups and their political allies in government
are working to keep the study bottled up indefinitely
for political reasons, not scientific ones.
we're saying is the chemical industry has had a big influence
over the way the EPA makes its decisions," said Stephen
Lester of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice,
which monitors hazardous waste. "They've affected the
way the science policy and business of the agency is done."
Bush administration has challenged several Clinton-era
environmental and public health rules and initiatives
-- including a tough new standard for arsenic in drinking
water -- on the grounds they weren't scientifically sound
and would cause economic hardship to industry and local
politically active chemical, livestock and meatpacking
industries contributed $1,171,000 to Bush's campaign last
year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Industry officials are lobbying the administration to
postpone indefinitely release of the study until other
agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture and the
Food and Drug Administration, can conduct lengthy studies.
officials and spokesmen for the chemical and meat industries
dispute environmentalists' charges of a "conspiracy" to
block the study's release. They describe the controversy
as a dispute over the interpretation of mountains of studies
on the health effects of dioxin. Moreover, some scientists
were skeptical of the EPA's latest report and predicted
it would not withstand scrutiny.
declined last week to speculate on the fate of the agency
draft report, saying only, "We're still looking at that."
industry officials concede their primary goal is simply
to keep the study of dioxin -- begun during the Reagan
administration -- going for as long as possible. David
Fischer, managing counsel for the Chlorine Chemistry Council,
said his group is pressing the administration to take
"an interagency approach" that would allow the FDA, the
Agriculture Department and other agencies with jurisdiction
over food safety to weigh in.
said any attempt by Whitman and the EPA to conclude unilaterally
that dioxin causes cancer "is a plan doomed for failure."
is the airborne byproduct of burning plastics and medical
waste containing chlorine. These pollutant compounds infiltrate
the food chain through grass and feed, then settle into
the fat of livestock and poultry.
most toxic form of the chemical is known by the acronym
TCDD and was more commonly recognized as the contaminant
found in Agent Orange, a defoliant used during the Vietnam
War. The Air Force has found a "significant and potentially
meaningful" relationship between diabetes and bloodstream
levels of chemical dioxin in its ongoing study of people
who worked with Agent Orange.
there is some research of people who were accidentally
exposed to the chemical, most data about the potential
health effects of dioxin have come from laboratory experiments
prevalence of this toxic chemical in the environment has
declined by nearly 80 percent since the 1970s because
of changing practices in the chemical industry and in
waste disposal operations, but the latest EPA study concludes
that people who consume even small amounts of dioxin in
fatty foods and dairy products face a cancer risk of 1
in 100. They may also develop other problems, such as
attention disorder, learning disabilities, susceptibility
to infections and liver disorders.
1985, the EPA released its first dioxin health assessment,
but the agency's findings that the chemical posed one
of the most serious threats of cancer in humans of any
chemical studied drew strong protests from the chemical
industry, which prompted the agency to do a reassessment.
study, completed in 1994, spurred yet another reassessment.
That one culminated in the EPA's issuance last June of
its latest findings, showing that the risk of getting
cancer from dioxin exposure was 10 times greater than
previously thought, ranging from 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 100.
now there are more hurdles. A subcommittee of an EPA scientific
advisory panel composed of outside experts publicly convened
in November for two days to review the agency's findings
and to make recommendations.
a third of the 21 panel members were scientists and scholars
who have worked as paid consultants to the chemical industry.
They included John D. Graham -- long a critic of the notion
that dioxin and cancer are linked and founder of the industry-backed
Harvard Center for Risk Analysis -- who was recently appointed
to a key regulatory review post in the Office of Management
and Budget, and Dennis Paustenbach, vice president of
Exponent Inc., an engineering and scientific consulting
firm. Paustenbach's firm has advised Chemical Land Holdings
Inc. and Occidental Chemical Corp. on ways of challenging
the EPA's dioxin findings.
EPA official involved in the preparation of the latest
dioxin reassessment said when the advisory panel had completed
its meetings, he and other agency officials were under
the strong impression that "they had accepted our assumption
the data was sufficient to characterize the best studied
of the dioxins as a human carcinogen."
on March 13 the panel, headed by Morton Lippmann of the
New York University School of Medicine, issued an executive
summary of its deliberations that cast serious doubt on
many of the EPA's findings -- including the risk assessment
of contracting cancer -- and recommended wholesale revisions
and rethinking of the study. The industry experts contend
that the EPA has overstated the risks posed by normal
levels of dioxin in food and questioned the research models
Lippmann and panel member Genevieve Matanoski had raised
strong concerns that EPA scientists had excluded contrary
data from two important dioxin studies in reaching their
conclusions, according to Gary Kayajanian, an independent
consultant who closely monitored the November meetings.
Center for Health, Environment and Justice protested that
some panel members who assisted in preparing the March
13 report had misrepresented the views of the majority
of the advisory panel members. But some panel members
and their industry supporters say environmental protesters
who attended the November sessions may have intimidated
some experts and prompted them to withhold their views
until they wrote their report.
think a lot of us -- me included -- believe the data in
the current analysis is fairly weak that risks of cancer
[from normal doses of dioxin] are equal to 1 in 1,000,"
Paustenbach said. "When there's a number of vocal [protesters]
who clearly have strong views, there may be a tendency
[by panel members] to be cautious and to not antagonize
the crowd, if you will."
2001 The Washington Post Company