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Dioxins in milk increase near Coalite works

  Dioxins in milk increase near Coalite works
  ENDS Report 271 August 1997
  Dioxin levels in milk from farms around Coalite Chemicals' works near Bolsover increased markedly in 1996, the Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF) revealed in August. (l) The contamination was close to levels which led to a ban on sales of produce from the farms in 1991.
  Coalite came under the spotlight in 1991 when MAFF found high levels of dioxins in milk from surrounding farms. The contamination was blamed on a chemical waste incinerator which was shut down in late 1991. In February 1996, Coalite was prosecuted for failing to use the "best practicable means" to prevent pollution from the plant and fined £150,000 (ENDS Report 253, pp 48-49).
  Monitoring of milk around the site showed a rapid decline in dioxin levels after the incinerator closed. On most farms, levels appeared to be approaching the norm for industrialised areas - until samples from two farms last October showed a return almost to the 1991 peak levels (see table).
  		Dioxin levels in milk (ngTEQ/kg milk fat)
  	July	Aug	Sept	July	Aug	Oct
  	1991	1992	1993	1994	1995	1996
  Farm A	21	7.4	41	5.8	-	-
  Farm B	85	48	25	27	26	62
  Farm F	6.0	2.S	2.0	2 4	2.3	6 0
  Farm H	5 2	3.2	2.5	21 	2 7	-
  The levels in milk from Farm B far exceeded the maximum tolerable concentration of 16.6ng per kilogram of milk fat, expressed as the toxic equivalent (TEQ) of the most toxic dioxin 2,3,7,8-TCDD. However, Farm B produces suckling cattle and does not provide milk for human consumption.
  MAFF carried out further sampling in July, and concluded that as milk from Farm F did not exceed the tolerable concentration there was "no risk to human health". This level is set to ensure that extreme consumers of milk do not exceed the Department of Health's tolerable daily intake for dioxins - which has been criticised as 100 or even 1,000 times too high to protect health (ENDS Report 255, pp 3-5).
  The Environment Agency says that no likely sources of atmospheric dioxin pollution remain at the Coalite works. Provisional results of air samples taken in the weeks before last October's milk samples did not show elevated dioxin levels.
  "The indications are that there was no aerial release," a spokesman said. However, after a prolonged dry period heavy rain fell a few days before the milk was sampled. The spokesman suggested that cattle uprooted the grass and ate large amounts of soil, although dioxins in soil are generally believed to be poorly absorbed by cattle.
  If soil is confirmed as the source of the contamination, the findings will call into question the wisdom of allowing highly contaminated soils to be grazed by livestock. Occasional ingestion of such soil by livestock could be a significant route of dioxins passing into the human food chain.
  € MAFF's monitoring around industrial sites has uncovered a dioxin hotspot in the Rotherham area. (2) Milk from two farms close to a British steel Engineering Steels site and other steelworks contained 2.2-8.0 ngTEQ/kg of dioxins.  Levels of PCBs were also relatively high at 8.0-8.1 ngTEQ/kg. The combined levels of dioxins and PCBs narrowly avoided the maximum tolerable concentration of 1 6.7ngTEQ/kg.
  (1) Food surveillance sheet 124: Dioxins and PCBs in cows' milk from the Bolsover area. 
  (2) Food surveillance sheet 123: Dioxins and PCBs in cows' milk from farms close to industrial sites: 1996 survey results. From MAFF, 0171 238 6235.
         _\\|//_                Alan Watson C.Eng                  
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