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Institute of Medicine Dioxin Report


 http://www.nationalacademies.org  accesses this report

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has now released "Dioxins and Dioxin-Like Compounds in the Food Supply:  Strategies to Decrease Exposure".  The critical message of this report is that current levels of dioxins and dioxin-like compounds (DLC) in animal fat foods impose a significant health risk upon the general public.  Cancer and endocrine disruption disorders are dioxin-associated diseases of especial concern.


Policy recommendations are made in Chapter 7 of the IOM document.  The two "most promising leverage points for affecting DLC exposure from food" are:  (1) the animal production stage where DLC enter the food supply through forage crops and feeds and are subsequently recycled back through the system by practices such as the reuse of animal fats as ingredients in animal feeds; and (2) food consumption patterns, where consumption of foods with higher levels of animal fat, particularly by children, contributes to DLC exposure and life-long DLC body burdens.  It is stated by IOM that, "These two areas are where further analysis of risk management options should begin.


Environmental considerations set forth by the IOM are confined to three short paragraphs of this lengthy report.  It is argued that strict regulation of the incineration industry has resulted in great reductions in the quantities of DLC being released into the environment. "The largest current source of DLC production in the US is now backyard barrel burning (estimated at 628 g TEQ/year) and other poorly characterized sources such as sewage sludge application, residential wood burning and coal-fired utilities.  Actions should be taken at all possible levels to monitor and reduce emissions from these poorly characterized sources."


It is significant that this report calls for further study of the matter of dioxin exposure and disease.  "Regulatory agencies have invested relatively little toward generating the data required to support risk-management decisions related to options to reduce DLC exposure."


As comment upon the IOM report described above, Cancer Action NY firmly states that the most health protective means for reducing exposure is to minimize releases to the environment.  This will require policy changes, which include the establishment of standards for dioxin levels in animal feeds and in foods for human consumption, a regionally based testing program, and legislation requiring the phase-out of PVC manufacturing and all forms of waste incineration.  Open waste burning must be eliminated.  Other poorly characterized sources of dioxins must be regulated with a goal of minimization of releases.  Educating the public on the health damaging effects of dioxin exposure will generate broad-based support for those policy measures needed to eliminate dioxins in the environment and the food supply.


In order that policy work would be expedited, the US Environmental Protection Agency's dioxin reassessment as well as the Cross-Media Dioxin Strategy must be immediately released to the public in final form.  Any further delay in the publication of these reports   will only increase the unacceptable burden of disease suffered by Americans who consume animal fat foods.


For further Information:  Donald L. Hassig, Cancer Action NY, 531 CR 28, Ogdensburg, NY 13669; 315 393-1975; canceraction@hotmail.com




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