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E-M:/ Citizens meet with Governor on Dioxin: Press Release

Enviro-Mich message from Tracey Easthope <tracey@ecocenter.org>

For Immediate Release
June 22, 2004

Contact: Michelle Hurd Riddick 989-798-5535

In a meeting yesterday with Governor Jennifer Granholm, Lieutenant 
Governor John Cherry and Department of Environmental Quality Director 
Steve Chester, residents of the dioxin-contaminated floodplain in 
mid-Michigan urged the Governor to protect public health and in 
particular, the region's children, from dioxin contamination. 
Residents are concerned about recent attempts by Dow Chemical and 
several Midland area legislators with ties to the chemical giant to 
delay and in some cases prevent cleanup of their neighborhoods and 

"My husband developed a series of illnesses while we were living in 
our home in the river. We are now concerned that the dioxin 
contamination we have been living in for 30 years contributed to his 
unexplained multiple health problems.  Two of our otherwise healthy 
daughters have battled infertility.  Our combined health problems are 
the same as evidenced in studies on dioxin," said Barb Steinmetz, a 
long-time river resident.  "While we thought we were enjoying our 
uniquely beautiful location on the river, we have come to the 
realization that over the years, we have been slowly poisoned by 
subtle, insidious dioxin exposure."

"I told the Governor that I was worried about the health of my young 
children, and concerned that we can no longer use our yard without 
worrying that we are putting them at risk," said Marcia Woodman, 
river resident and mother of three.

Residents called recent legislative attempts to weaken the state's 
dioxin cleanup standard an outrage, and urged the Governor to be 
guided by the mountain of scientific evidence that details dioxin's 
hazards.  Michigan's standard is similar to other states that have 
dioxin cleanup standards.  They are based on well-established 
scientific methods to protect public health.

"The developing baby is most at risk from dioxin's toxicity.  Even 
tiny amounts can threaten a baby's development.  Weakening our 
standard will just put more children at risk.  Public health must 
come first in any cleanup.  That is the state law, and that is the 
ethical and right thing to do," said Michelle Hurd Riddick, of the 
Lone Tree Council.

"Cleanup decisions must be out in the open, and with full public 
participation," said Diane Hebert, a Midland resident who wants the 
right to have her property tested, and cleaned up if necessary. 
"Midland area legislators don't represent me and my interests, even 
though I live in Midland.  I am absolutely outraged that they are 
working to eliminate my right to get my yard cleaned up."

Residents also criticized legislative attempts to punish the DEQ for 
doing their job, and following state law.  The house recently passed 
a budget that cuts the Director's salary by 15% and institutes across 
the board cuts of 8% in the DEQ budget.

Residents also objected to the plan to use taxpayer dollars that are 
meant for cleanup to fund a study that Dow is already conducting on 
dioxin.  "Dioxin has been studied for more than ten years by dozens 
of scientists writing hundreds of papers.  This is yet another delay 
tactic to confuse people and make them think that there are major 
questions about dioxin's toxicity," said Michelle Hurd Riddick.

Dioxin is a known human carcinogen, and has been linked to a variety 
of health effects including endometriosis, diabetes, cardiovascular 
disease, decreased testosterone, immunotoxicity, altered sex ratio, 
delayed breast development, developmental insults including altered 
thyroid status and neurobehavioral impacts, auto-immune disorders, 
birth defects, and many other health problems.  There is more 
evidence on dioxin's hazards than almost any other pollutant ever 
studied.  While some areas of uncertainty remain, there is widespread 
scientific consensus that dioxin is toxic in tiny amounts, and that 
any additional exposure to dioxin increases our risks.

"This is just like the Hudson River cleanup in New York.  The 
industry fought for years, and continued to claim that PCB's weren't 
toxic, and that people weren't exposed.  But in the end, PCB's are 
still toxic, and the company was forced to cleanup," said Tracey 
Easthope, MPH of the Ecology Center.

"There is a massive amount of misinformation circulating about the 
dioxin cleanup efforts.  Dow has done a good job of completely 
confusing people about the issues.  But the facts remain - Dow 
contaminated the whole region, and that contamination continues to 
sweep through the watershed, contaminating our backyards and 
fisheries and wildlife, and poisoning people who are exposed.  Its 
time, after all these years, to finally clean up," said Gary Henry, 
river resident.

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