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E-M:/ Dow Tops Dioxin Releasers in Michigan - TRI 2000 data

Title: Dow Tops Dioxin Releasers in Michigan - TRI 2000 data
Press Release                                                  
For Immediate Release                                   For More Information Contact:
May 24, 2002                                            Diane Hebert 989-832-1694
                                               Terry Miller 989-686-6386
                                                Michelle Hurd-Riddick 989-799-3313
                                                Tracey Easthope 734-663-2400 x 109


Groups Reaffirm Call for a Full Assessment of Dioxin Contamination, and a Phase Out of Dioxin Releases

According to data released yesterday by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Dow Chemical in Midland was overwhelmingly the largest dioxin emitter in Michigan.  Dow Chemical's dioxin emissions in Michigan are more than all other reporting industries in Michigan combined.

Dioxin is toxic in tiny amounts.  Significant health effects in the laboratory are seen at exposures to the most toxic form of dioxin in the trillionths of a gram.

Of the 510 grams of dioxin released in the state during the year 2000, Dow is responsible for 326 grams.  Dow's dioxin releases to water represent 97% of all releases to water in the state.  Similarly, Dow's dioxin releases to land represent almost 96% of the total.

"The EPA's new data lends significant support to speculation that Dow is an ongoing source of dioxin downstream in Saginaw County", said Michelle Hurd Riddick of the Lone Tree Council.

"For those communities living downstream and downwind, indeed, all those who eat fish from Michigan's waters, this new information highlights the need to focus on Midland; until Dow commits to a real effort to reduce its dioxin output, we all stand at risk, " added Lone Tree's Terry Miller.

Dow's dioxin releases were entirely to the surrounding  community, and were not sent off-site.  Of on-site releases,  Dow's contribution made up nearly 90% of the state's total.
For all dioxin releases, both on-site and to off-site treatment facilities, Dow's contribution makes up 64% of the state's total. 

"Its long past time to assess the dioxin problem in this state, and move toward solutions - and the place to start is the Midland/ Saginaw area and Dow," said Diane Hebert of Environmental Health Watch in Midland.  

Other large dioxin emitters in Michigan include Alchem Aluminum in Coldwater (81.82 grams), and IMCO recycling, also of Coldwater (64.02 grams).  Mead Paper of Escanaba (12.59 grams) is the fourth largest emitter.  There are 26 other companies on the list. 

Dow Chemical's plant in Freeport Texas is the sixth largest source of dioxin nationally.  Dow's Plaquemine, Louisiana facility is the ninth largest in the nation.  Dow's Midland plant is 19th overall nationally. 

Environmental groups in Michigan renewed their calls for a comprehensive and fully open investigation of dioxin contamination in the Midland/Saginaw area, and a plan for the eventual phase out of dioxin releases.  Environmentalists also called again for a comprehensive dioxin elimination plan in the state to protect the citizens of Michigan.

"This new information demonstrates the need to get to the bottom of the dioxin problem from Midland to Saginaw.  People in this part of the state are uniquely exposed to high levels of dioxins," said Dave Dempsey of the Michigan Environmental Council.

Dioxin is one of the most toxic chemicals known.  In fact, the EPA, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the National Toxicology Program have all classified dioxin as a known human carcinogen.  Dioxin is also known to cause more subtle health effects such as attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities, weakened immune systems,
infertility, and birth defects.  Dioxin has been called the 'new lead' because, like lead, its effects are particularly pronounced with children, can include impairments in basic functions, and because we are all exposed.

While there is some evidence that dioxin levels in the environment are decreasing, existing emissions still pose a significant health threat because of the high levels of dioxin present in our bodies, and because of the exquisite toxicity of dioxin.  The new data indicates that over 99,814 grams were released in 2000, considerably higher than earlier EPA estimates. 

"Each of us are already 'full' of dioxin," said Tracey Easthope, MPH, Director of the Environmental Health Project at the Ecology Center.  "The dioxin in all of our bodies already may be causing health effects.  Additional exposures must be stopped."

Ninety percent of our exposure to dioxin comes from the food we eat, especially fish, dairy, meat and eggs.  Dioxin does not break down easily in the environment.  Once we are exposed, it accumulates in our bodies. Dioxin is a by-product of chemical and industrial processes such as the manufacture of plastics, pesticides and other chlorinated chemicals.  Not all dioxin sources are required to report under this inventory.  Other sources include medical and municipal incineration. 

To see the data, go to www.epa.gov/triexplorer