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The Planet

ALERT: Club Calls for Dioxin Phaseout

Sierra Club activists at more than 50 press conferences throughout the country on Sept. 13 called for a phase-out of the industrial processes that produce dioxin, a class of highly toxic chemicals. The media events were held the day of the Environmental Protection Agency's release of its dioxin reassessment report, which links dioxin and related chemicals to cancer as well as reproductive, immunological and developmental dysfunction.

"We need immediate action to stop exposing men, women and children to these poisons," said Sierra Club President J. Robert Cox at a Washington, D.C., press conference Sept. 13. "Regulation of these chemicals as a class is the only way that we can adequately address this issue."

Cox and other Sierra Club leaders urged national and local governments and corporate officials to:

  • Declare a moratorium on all new incinerators.n Phase out the burning of chlorinated compounds in existing medical, hazardous and municipal waste incinerators.
  • Eliminate chlorine in the bleaching of paper.
  • Reveal and clean up the sources of dioxin and PCBs.

Club leaders are encouraging activists around the country to submit comments on the dioxin reassessment to the EPA --the report is available for review until mid-January, 1995 --and testify at public hearings about dioxiněs effects in their regions.

Dioxin is present in the air, water and soil of all communities, and the numerous local press events held Sept. 13 point to a growing public awareness of the chemical's potential dangers. Columbus, Ohio activists, for example, are fighting to close a waste incinerator in their community.

"The dioxin produced at that facility is more than 500 times the maximum 'safe' amount proposed by the EPA in their report," said Jeff Skelding, state coordinator for the Club's Ohio chapter. "Shutting down the incinerator is the only responsible step the government can now take."

The EPA is under pressure from chlorine, paper-and-pulp and other industries that produce dioxin to delay or forgo implementation of stricter standards for dioxin and related chemicals. But activists protest that after 15 years and millions of dollars spent on dioxin studies, the EPA has for too long taken a wait-and-see approach.

"We say the weight of evidence justifies government action on a moral basis. The alternative could be profound indeed," said George Coling, Great Lakes lobbyist for the Sierra Club.

The reproductive, immunological and developmental disruptions -- including low sperm counts, infertility and genital deformities -- associated with estrogen-mimicking chemicals such as dioxin have been found in wildlife species in the Great Lakes, Florida and elsewhere. The EPA's reassessment states that humans are likely to soon exhibit similar health effects --and that the groups at highest risk are young children, infants and unborn babies. The reason: Dioxin passes through the placenta, builds up in developing babies' tissues and concentrates in breast milk.

To take action:

  • Testify at a public comment meeting. The EPA is scheduled to hold public comment meetings in the first two weeks of December at five locations: Washington, D.C.; New York, N.Y.; Chicago, Ill., Dallas, Texas; and San Francisco, Calif. Exact dates and locations have yet to be announced.
  • Review the EPA report and submit written comments to the agency. The entire 1000-plus page health assessment and exposure assessment portions of the EPA report are available for public review through mid-January. Two summary volumes, the Risk Characterization Chapter and the Executive Summary Chapter of the Exposure Document are also available.
  • For copies, contact the ORD Publications Center, CERI-FRN, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 26 W. Martin Luther King Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45268; telephone (513) 569-7562; fax (513) 569-7566. Provide your name, mailing address and document title.

For more information:

Contact George Coling in the Sierra Club's Washington, D.C., office at (202) 547-1141.

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