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dioxin digest

  This is the latest issue of Dioxin Digest.  If you are on our dioxin
  campaign mailing list, you will be receiving your paper copy in  a few
  * ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA - OCTOBER 3-5, 1997    *
  * http://www.essential.org/cchw              *
  Vol. 1  No. 3   August 1997
  Dioxin Digest
  Taking Action to Stop Dioxin Exposure 
  Where is the EPA's Dioxin Reassessment? When will the final version be
  completed and the long promised public hearings on the document's policy
  implications begin? The answers to these questions depend on how much
  pressure we bring to bear on the USEPA. We all need to take action
  immediately to get Carol Browner to complete this long chapter in the
  dioxin story. 
  You may remember that the chapter began with William Reilly, who as EPA
  Administrator ordered the second  EPA reassessment of dioxin in April
  1991. Reilly was responding to a Chlorine Institute- sponsored public
  relations effort promoting "new findings" that dioxin was much less toxic
  than previously thought.  
  Within months of Reilly's order, studies by the National Institute for
  Environmental Health Sciences and other scientists seriously discredited
  the Chlorine Institute's initiative.  The NIEHS study and other research
  presented at the September 1991 International Symposium on Chlorinated
  Dioxins and Related Compounds supported the findings of the EPA's original
  1985 health assessment.
  In 1993, Carol Browner became the Administrator of the EPA. That
  September, she wrote a letter to Greenpeace's Rick Hind stating that
  publication of the draft dioxin reassessment would take place within the
  next few months. But it wasn't until September 1994 that  the 1,700 page
  draft document was actually released.
  In May 1995, the EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) reviewed the draft
  reassessment report. The entire exposure document and almost all of the
  scientific chapters of the health assessment document were approved by the
  SAB. The SAB suggested clarification and amplification of some sections of
  the final chapter of the health document, notably the sections that
  characterize the risks to people and wildlife from dioxin exposure. EPA's
  William Farland told the Science Advisory Board that  revisions of the
  document would probably be ready by the Fall of 1995.
  Now, more than two years since the Science Advisory Board meeting, the
  revisions have still not been completed.  The most recent promise is that
  the reassessment will be completed by  Labor Day, 1997.  The peer review
  process for the risk characterization document would then take place
  during the fall and the final document would go to the Science Advisory
  Board in the winter. Public hearings on the policy implications would be
  scheduled for the spring of 1998.
  Every month that goes by without a final version of the reassessment is an
  additional gift to the dioxin polluters and an additional burden on the
  American people. EPA is writing new rules for major sources of dioxin
  pollution -- pulp and paper manufacturing and medical waste incineration
  -- that are deaf to the alarms of the dioxin reassessment.
  The Dioxin Campaign Coordinating Committee has a proposal for grassroots
  action on the EPA's dioxin reassessment. 
  But we can't start until the EPA completes the final draft. Two extra
  years is two too many. Call, write, fax or e-mail Carol Browner.  Ask her
  to  finalize the reassessment now.           
  Carol Browner, Administrator
  401 M Street, SW
  Washington, DC 20460
  202-260-0279 fax
  Here's the plan devised by the Dioxin Campaign Coordinating Committee: 
  As soon as EPA releases the final text, the Stop Dioxin Exposure Campaign
  will get to work writing a layperson's version of the new document. That
  report will be made available in a brochure and on-line to activists
  willing to carry the message to members of their community.
  Then we all need to spread the word everywhere we can. Letters to the
  editor, speeches to the county commission, meetings with organic farmers
  and breast feeding advocates. We need to mobilize as many people as
  possible to participate in the policy hearings the EPA has promised will
  happen next spring. Every one of those hearings needs to have hundreds of
  people demanding strong and swift protection -- dairy farmers and prostate
  cancer victims, families of learning disabled children and Vietnam
  Veterans, doctors and residents of contaminated communities.    
  How will all  of these people find out about dioxin and these hearings?
  Because we will tell them. We can build on all the organizing and
  educating that has already been done and use the time between the
  publication of the final document and the public hearings to build even
  more connections with an even broader and more diverse group of
  organizations.  The Stop Dioxin Exposure Campaign hopes to bring together
  activists in each of the EPA's regions to encourage coordinated efforts to
  educate and organize in preparation for the regional hearings.  If you'd
  like to help in your region, let us know.
  EPA Wants Your Advice on Policy Implications of the Dioxin Reassessment
  With or without a final draft, the EPA is planning to open a public
  comment period in September on the policy implications of  the
  reassessment. Everyone who reads this digest should use that comment
  period to write, for the public record, what you think EPA should do about
  dioxin. Greenpeace's Jack Weinberg offers the following five policy
  principles to get you started.
  US EPA dioxin policy should be:
  1) BASED ON THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE. Scientific uncertainty can no
  longer be an excuse to avoid or continue the delay in establishing and
  implementing an effective USEPA dioxin policy. Since the evidence shows
  that dioxin pollution poses a potentially severe and irreversible threat
  to the public's health and the environment there is now ample
  justification for strong action.
  dioxin policy should be to eliminate dioxin sources. This policy should
  apply to dioxin sources inside the US, and as opportunities arise, it
  should also apply to global sources. In some cases, measures by USEPA to
  control or to manage dioxin releases may be appropriate. USEPA, however,
  should always view regulations to control or manage dioxin releases as
  interim measures to be implemented in the context of a longer term
  commitment to dioxin source elimination.
  industrial processes always generate dioxin and must be eliminated.  It
  should be USEPA policy to phase out such industrial processes over time.
  Priority should go to: waste incineration; pulp and paper bleaching with
  chlorine-containing chemicals; and the manufacturing process for certain
  chlorine-containing compounds, including the manufacture of certain
  chlorinated pesticides and the oxychlorination process in the production
  of ethylene dichloride and perchloroethylene.
  released to the environment during the ordinary life cycle of certain
  chlorine-containing materials of anthropogenic (human) origin. Most new
  dioxin generation, it appears, results from the life cycle of a relatively
  small number of these materials. It should be USEPA policy to phase out
  such materials over time as appropriate substitutes (including appropriate
  non-chemical substitutes) can be made available. Priority materials
  targeted for substitution should include: chlorinated plastics (such as
  PVC); chlorinated solvents;
  chlorinated pesticides; chlorine- containing automotive fuel additives;
  chlorine-containing hydraulic fluids and others.
  In many cases, there can be significant economic and/or social
  consequences resulting from a decision to phase out industrial processes
  or anthropogenic materials, and to replace them with appropriate, cleaner
  alternatives. These consequences include benefits as well as costs since,
  in most cases, economic activity of one type will be replaced with
  economic activity of another. When phase-outs are implemented, it should
  be US EPA policy to promote an Orderly Transition; that is, a transition
  in which economic and social costs are minimized and all benefits are
  maximized. It should also be USEPA policy to promote a Just Transition.
  Workers and communities who depend on economic activities being eliminated
  should share fully in the benefits associated with the new economic
  activities.   If this is not possible or adequate, affected workers and
  communities should receive full compensation for their loss.
  The Stop Dioxin Exposure Campaign will let you know as soon as this
  comment period for dioxin policy begins..
  The United States produces 25% of the PVC produced globally.  Of the 14
  vinyl facilities in this country, 13 are located in Texas and Louisiana.
  PVC facility expansions are occurring in Louisiana's small rural
  communities.  Two communities are being hit especially hard.
  Vincent Settlement in Calcasieu Parish is located about 30 miles from the
  southwest border of Louisiana.  Westlake Corporation, a Taiwanese-owned
  vinyl production company, has proposed to build five facilities in Vincent
  Settlement which will produce and process chemicals for polyvinyl chloride
  (PVC).  Two of these facilities, the chlor-alkali and ethylene dichloride
  plants, are scheduled to be built by February 1998, and will be located
  within a half mile of the Vincent Settlement Elementary School.
  According to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ),
  Calcasieu Parish has one of the highest toxic release levels in the state
  with over 12 million pounds of toxic substances.  Westlake Corporation
  estimates that its proposed ethylene dichloride and chlor-alkali plants
  will pollute the air with 500,000 pounds of toxic contaminants.  Ethylene
  dichloride is a known human carcinogen.
  Romeville, in Saint James Parish, faces a similar situation.  Shintech, a
  Japanese-owned PVC company, plans to construct and operate an immense PVC
  facility there.
  Shintech's proposed facility would  produce 1.3 billion pounds each of
  chlorine, chlor alkali, ethylene dichloride, vinylchloride monamer, and
  polyvinyl chloride.  These processes will generate more than 600,000
  pounds of toxic airborne pollutants annually. 
  This community is already in the center of "Cancer Alley".  The area where
  Shintech wants to operate is 73% African- American and 40% of the total
  population lives below the poverty level.  Two low income housing
  projects, an elementary school and a Head Start program are located within
  one mile of the site.  The parish already ranks as having the third
  highest level of  toxic air emissions in a state that is second in the
  country for such  emissions. 
  These small communities are on the verge of becoming deadly dioxin
  factories.  Residents' health and welfare are at stake. They have decided,
  "Enough is Enough".
  On Memorial Day of this year an historic event took place.  Black and
  white, rich and poor, young and old gathered for a rally against Westlake
  Corporation.  The day ended by hanging a 36 foot sign on Westlake's fence
  that read "We're Taking Back Our Stolen Future".
  On July 14, six climbers hung a banner from a rack of pipes that carry
  vinyl chloride, the carcinogenic precursor to PVC, from one vinyl
  manufacturer  to another.  The pipes go over and under highways, by-ways,
  around railroad tracks, homes and parks.  The message on the banner, which
  was 120 feet long, read, "No More Dioxin Factories!  Stop PVC - The Poison
  Plastic. Environmental Justice Now! Greenpeace."  One of the climbers is a
  mother of two, born and raised in Lake Charles  and the daughter of a
  Louisiana state senator.
  In a continuation of their  efforts to protect their families from dioxin,
  the communities are organizing a Labor Day memorial service. Unionized
  workers from the area's vinyl plants, local residents living under the
  cloud of poison, community environmentalists, concerned parents and
  neighbors will join together to remember the friends and family members
  they loved,  who have died from the illnesses related to vinyl production
  and dioxin.  
  For more information about the event, call Greenpeace Toxics Campaigner,
  Beth Zilbert, toll free at 1-888-859-0447.
  Medical Waste Incinerator Shut Down in New York
  The South Bronx Clean Air Coalition celebrated a major victory last month
  when New York's Republican Governor, George E. Pataki, ordered
  Browning-Ferris to shut down its medical waste incinerator in the Bronx.
  This decision comes after years of community opposition to the facility.  
  During the first three weeks of June, the incinerator exceeded permissible
  carbon-monoxide levels seven times.  In one instance, levels were 26 times
  the permitted allowance. The incinerator's violations trace back to before
  BFI bought the incinerator in 1995.
  This is the only medical waste incinerator in the state of New York.  It
  is unclear what will happen next.  There is a chance  BFI will be able to
  re-open the incinerator, or they may convert it into an autoclave.  In the
  meantime, it may become a medical waste transfer station. 
  Carlos Padilla, of the South Bronx Clean Air Coalition, said, "No matter
  what [BFI is] coming with, they're going to find themselves scrutinized
  and fought at every turn."  
  US Borders Closed To PCB Imports
  EPA's 1996 PCB import rule was struck down on July 7 by the U.S. Ninth
  Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.  A three-judge panel agreed
  that EPA's rule change was illegal. The Sierra Club filed suit in 1996.
  Activists from Greenpeace USA, Canada and Mexico, Sierra Club and other
  organizations  brainstormed about their concerns with EPA's new PCB rule
  at the 3rd Citizens Dioxin conference in Baton Rouge the weekend before it
  became effective on March 18, 1996. 
  EPA's decision to open the borders and allow disposal of millions of
  pounds of PCBs in the US (mostly by incinerators) resulted from the
  agency's blatant cave-in to political pressures from the waste industry.
  Between June 1996 and July 20, 1997  large quantities of PCBs were
  imported to burn in the US from Mexico and other nations under the new
  According to EPA, the PCB import rule would help the waste industry earn
  an additional  50 to 100 million dollars per year, create jobs, and keep
  American borders free of PCBs. Fortunately, the court agreed with the
  Sierra Club that the EPA failed to disclose that the new rule violated the
  Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  Under TSCA, Congress declared it
  illegal to manufacture PCBs in the US, effective January 1, 1979. The
  definition of manufacture includes "to import" which EPA tried to
  circumvent, claiming this was only disposal and cleanup.
  Lollapalooza & Dioxin
  The day-long rock concert series Lollapalooza, currently on its seventh
  tour, has taken on the theme of dioxin and toxic waste. Perry Farrell,
  musician and founder of Lollapalooza, became committed to working on these
  issues after reading Dying From Dioxin by Lois Marie Gibbs. This year, the
  touring festival includes the "Greenhouse", a tent for grassroots
  environmental organizations to set up interactive games and displays to
  educate concert-goers on these issues.   
  Chicken & Dioxin
  On July 15th, the Food and Drug Administration announced a ban   on the
  shipment of some chickens and eggs due to dioxin contamination.
  Approximately 350 producers, primarily in Texas and Arkansas, were
  affected by this order.  On July 20th, the Food and Drug Administration
  announced that farm raised catfish was also included in the ban.  This ban
  is to remain in effect until producers can demonstrate that the dioxin
  level in their products is below one part per trillion (ppt).  
  The source of the dioxin contamination was found  to be soybean-based feed
  distributed by two Arkansas companies.  "Ball" clay, or bentonite, which
  is used as an anti-caking agent in the feed, was the source of  dioxin.
  The clay came from a open pit clay mine in Sledge, Mississippi.  It is not
  known how the clay became contaminated with dioxin, although opinions
  range from the possible presence of hazardous waste in the mine (clay
  mines are often used as hazardous waste dumps) to the creation of dioxin
  from fossil fuel combustion in clay kilns.
  The FDA emphasized that the one part per trillion measurement was a "level
  of concern" for a single instance of "avoidable" dioxin contamination.
  This value is not a risk based standard, but was derived simply by looking
  at the levels of dioxin in the chicken. Most of the non-contaminated
  samples had levels in the 0.2 to 0.4 ppt range while the contaminated
  chicken had levels in the 4 to 5 ppt range. The 1 ppt value was
  conveniently in between. The FDA has decided to use the 1 ppt level to
  evaluate all  "adulterated" foods. 
  But the FDA has never taken action in response to the many studies that
  have shown that the meat, fish and dairy products we routinely buy in the
  supermarket are contaminated with more than 1 ppt of dioxin. Is the FDA
  saying that 1 ppt contamination from a paper mill or incinerator is safer
  than 1 ppt. Contamination from clay? 
  No Preventable Risk is an Acceptable Risk: 
  Fatal Flaws in EPA's Pulp  and  Paper "Cluster  Rule"
  On June 20th, the Environmental Protection Agency sent its new air and
  water regulations for the pulp and paper industry (known as the "cluster
  rule") to the Office of  Management and Budget (OMB).
  While neither of the options EPA considered would totally eliminate the
  paper  industry's reliance on chlorine, the EPA choose the GREATER of two
  evils.  Their recommendation calls for pulp and paper mills to switch from
  elemental chlorine to chlorine dioxide in the bleaching process.  The OMB
  has 90 days to decide whether to adopt EPA's recommendation or submit its
  own.  By not requiring pulp and paper mills to adopt TCF technologies, the
  EPA's final proposal discourages US mills from making chlorine free and
  ultimately effluent-free paper.  There is no word yet on whether the
  federal government will adopt purchasing policies that favor chlorine free
  Health Care Without Harm and the MACT Rule on Medical Waste Incineration
  On July 25th, EPA sent a draft of its Maximum Achievable Control
  Technology (MACT) Rule for medical waste incinerators to the White House
  Office of Management and Budget  (OMB). Under a court order resulting from
  a lawsuit by the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund and NRDC, the final rule
  had to be issued by July 25th. But one week before the deadline, the
  Administration received a court-approved extension until August 15, 1997.
  Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) campaign members worked hard to win some
  improvements in the final draft.   But the June 25th version that EPA sent
  to OMB still contains:
  *   excessive emission limits for dioxin, mercury and other pollutants;
  * weak pollution prevention recommendations;
  *    exemptions for smaller, rural facilities for pollution control
  * minimal inspection and monitoring programs.
  It's a good bet that the final version of the MACT Rule for medical waste
  incinerators will not adequately protect the American people from dioxin
  and mercury.  However, the new rules will substantially increase waste
  disposal costs for hospitals. The  Health Care Without Harm Covenant
  presents an alternative to these increased disposal costs by minimizing or
  eliminating the need for  incineration through recycling, waste
  segregation, alternative waste disposal methods, and the purchase of
  products that can be reused and safely disposed.  
  "Healing the Harm," a new handbook for communities implementing local HCWH
  campaigns, will be ready for distribution on September 9th.  
  Grants of $500 to $3000 are available for local, state or regional events
  that implement the mission and goals of HCWH.  The first deadline for
  grant application is September 15, 1997.  For more information about
  Healing the Harm or to receive a grant application form, call, write or
  e-mail the Health Care Without Harm Campaign c/o CCHW.
  Don't forget to register for Winning Justice Step by Step, CCHW's Fourth
  Grassroots Convention.  Special hotel rates at the Crystal City Gateway
  Marriot end on September 12.  If you haven't received a registration
  brochure, contact CCHW (703)237-2249.
    Contact Carol Browner  immediately.  Urge her to  finalize the dioxin
    Before September 12, register for Winning Justice Step by Step, 
  CCHW's Grassroots Convention.
    On Labor Day - act in solidarity with PVC communities in Louisiana.  
   Before September 15, apply for Health Care Without Harm event grant.  
   Order "Healing the Harm", a tool for adopting a hospital.
  Coming soon:
  EPA's announcement of Pulp and Paper "Cluster Rule" and MACT Rule on
  medical waste incinerators.  Use their decisions to organize in your
  communities for strong protections from dioxin.
  Send EPA your comments on dioxin policy.  
  Make plans for EPA spring hearings on dioxin.  If you would like to be
  involved, contact the Stop Dioxin Exposure Campaign c/o CCHW.
  To contact the Stop Dioxin Exposure Campaign and Health Care Without Harm:
  CCHW Center for Health, Environment and Justice
  P.O. Box 6806
  Falls Church, VA 22040
  703-237-2249 phone
  703-237-8389 fax