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Chlorine dioxide bleached pulp effluent causes genetic damage in

  [Entered Greenbase July 14, 1997 ]
   The Vancouver Sun July 14, 1997 Study links mill waste to genetic harm in
  fish: A researcher calls the results of experiments near Prince George a
  Pandora's Box for industry. Stephen Hume Serious genetic damage has been
  found in baby chinook salmon exposed to low levels of supposedly
  non-toxic pulp milleffluentsroutinely released into the upper
  Fraser River.
     The findings have major implications for Canada's $20-billion
  pulpand paper industry, which invested heavily in cleaning up
  effluentsafter a long battle with environmental critics. It also
  has implications for British Columbia's sport fishing industry.
  The Fraser is a major producer of the chinook salmon, which is
  the province's most prized game fish and the mainstay oftourism
  based on saltwater angling.
  ``Yes, this really is a blockbuster finding. It's a Pandora's
  Boxfor the industry,'' said geneticist Michael Easton, one of
  four scientists who studied the effects of the effluents using
  sophisticated diagnostic technology developed for human cancer
  What they found was evidence that the DNA of the baby fish they
  studied was being being altered. DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid,
  isthe building block of life. It contains biochemical codes
  governingthe functions by which cells repair and replicate
  DNA also programs sperm and egg cells with the instructions for
  division that control the development of embryos. Damage to DNA
  haslong been linked to cancer, mutations, birth defects
  andreproductive failure. Scientists now worry there is a risk
  that suchdamage can impair an organism's ability to survive
  changing environmental conditions and could result ultimately in
  a populationcrash.
  ``Genetic damage is particularly insidious because it can take
  several generations for the effects to show up,'' Easton said.
  Easton, of Vancouver-based International
  BroodstockTechnologies,and George Kruzynski, Igor Solar and
  Helen Dye, three scientists from the West Vancouver laboratory
  of the federal department of fisheries and oceans' biological
  sciences branch, began their studyin in 1995.
  A paper formally documenting the research and its conclusions
  hasjust been published in the scientific journal Water Science
  and Technology. A second paper corroborating the findings of the
  firstis in final preparation for publication.
  In the study, juvenile chinook from a local hatchery were
  exposedto effluents going into the river at Prince George and
  then cellswere examined and genetic changes measured.
  ``Remember that we haven't demonstrated that this is going on in
  the fish in the river,'' Easton said. ``And we
  haven'tdemonstratedany changes in the actual germ [reproductive]
  cells. What we havedemonstrated is that genetic damage to fish
  in the river is a distinct possibility.''
  Exactly what chemical in the effluent is responsible for the
  genetic damage in the baby chinook is unknown, Easton said, but
  thestudies show the damage to DNA can be increased either by
  making concentrations stronger or by lengthening exposure time
  to the sameconcentration of effluent.
  Otto Langer, a federal scientist with the Fraser River Action
  Plan,said he is not surprised the specific chemical cause has
  not beenpinned down.
  ``When you look at a pulp mill effluent you're looking at maybe
  10,000 compounds,'' Langer says. ``It's a complex soup.''
  The findings, which Easton describes as ``just the initial
  assay,the bare first step,'' are gloomy news for B.C.'s $5-
  billion pulpand paper industry.
  Problems associated with toxic effluents from pulp processing
  weregenerally thought to have been solved by new pollution
  control technologies and by new processes introduced at great
  In fact, the effluents causing the genetic damage reported by
  Easton currently meet all provincial and federal environmental
  standards, of which B.C.'s are among the toughest.
  The findings on the upper Fraser are doubly dismaying because
  stringent provincial and federal regulations and enforcement in
  British Columbia have resulted in remarkable progress
  inreducingthe toxicity of pulp mill effluents.
  In most cases the presence of cancer-causing dioxins and furans
  hasbeen reduced to non-detectible levels. In fact, acute
  toxicity ofeffluents has virtually been eliminated in B.C. mills
  using the improved treatment processes.
  The changes have been so effective that there has recently been
  talk of relaxing some of the more stringent pollution control
  The Prince George mill that was the subject of the new study
  bleaches softwood pulp using chlorine dioxide and produces about
  1,500 cubic metres of effluent per day. This is stabilized in a
  settling pond and then discharged directly into the Fraser.
  ``This is state of the art technology for pulp mills,'' Easton
  said, ``although it is not state of the art for waste water
  The effluent discharged at Prince George is
  consideredcompletelynon-toxic. Fish can survive for up to four
  days -- the standard measure for toxicity -- in a pure solution
  of the effluent, even atcold temperatures.
  ``The fact is that we're still in the stone age regarding
  regulations,'' Easton said. ``We really have no idea what we're
  playing with.''
  Easton, who is calling for more intensive study, said this kind
  ofhigh tech testing for genetic impacts should become a standard
  partof environmental monitoring.
  ``We don't know what's actually happening at the genetic level.
  It's extremely important that we find out. We have a profound
  responsibility to start worrying about the genetic consequences
  ofour actions. Clearly, the genetic effects are where we should
  be measuring.''
  Other research has documented associations between exposure to
  industrial chemicals and elevated risk of cancers, birth defects
  andloss of fertility in the human population.
  If these implications are true for migratory fish exposed to
  ``safe'' pulp mill effluents at such low levels, what might the
  implications be for sedentary human populations exposed to the
  chemicals -- even at extremely low levels -- over long periods
  ``What about genetic damage in the [mill] workers themselves?
  Thereis so much work that needs to be done in this area. It's
  now time toopen the box and let's get on with it,'' Easton said.
                         *** END OF DOCUMENT ***====> TDAY
  [Entered Greenbase July 14, 1997 ]
  Pat Costner
  P.O. Box 548, or 512 CR 2663
  Eureka Springs, Arkansas 72632 USA
  ph:  501-253-8440
  fx:  501-253-5540
  em:  pat.costner@dialb.greenpeace.org