Organic Consumers Association

From Associated Press 7/1/03

Women Warned About Dioxin Residues in Meat & Dairy

WASHINGTON, July 1 ‹  

The government should teach women and girls to eat less of the fats found in meat, poultry, fatty fish and whole milk years before they become pregnant to protect their offspring from harmful dioxins, a scientific panel recommended Tuesday.        In Its report, the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, suggested the government encourage women and others to stick to the national dietary guidelines to reduce their fat intake and limit their exposure to dioxins, or DLCs, amid concerns that the pollutants are passed on to fetuses and infants through the placenta and breast milk.      

 ³Perhaps the most direct way for an individual or a population to reduce dietary intake of DLCs is to reduce their consumption of dietary fat, especially from animal sources that are known to contain higher levels of these compounds,² the scientists wrote.         COST OBSTACLE        However, they wouldn¹t advise what levels are considered dangerous because current tests for checking dioxins in food are too expensive, costing about $1,000 each, said Robert Lawrence, the chair of the panel.        ³We refrained from setting any risk tolerance limits or mandatory cutoff points for dioxins in the food supply because it would have been cost prohibitive with current methods,² said Lawrence, an associate dean of the Bloomberg School or Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. Dioxins, or DLCs, are pollutants found throughout the soil, water and air. They can occur naturally ‹ for example, when a forest burns. But they also are produced when industrial materials are incinerated.

They build up in fatty tissues in animals, so scientists believe that humans are exposed to them primarily when they eat animal fats. Unborn children and breast-feeding infants are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects, which can range from behavioral disorders to cancer.         WIDE-RANGING ADVICE        The panel noted that some American Indian tribes and indigenous groups in Canada also are at risk because they frequently eat fish and wild game, exposing them to higher levels of dioxins than on average.        The panel also suggested that the Agriculture Department provide schools in the federal lunch program with low-fat and skim milk to help children reduce their exposure to dioxins.        The current law for the national school lunch program, which feeds 28 million children, favors whole milk, although nutritionists have said that drinking it regularly can contribute to heart disease.        The panel also called for the government to: Partner up with food manufacturers and farmers and make a plan that will curb dioxin levels in food. Take steps to reduce the prevalence of dioxins in animal feed and grasses so that they¹ll be less apparent in animals. Create a database to track exposure and do more studies on the effects of dioxins on breast-feeding infants and unborn children.        The full Institute of Medicine report is online at         EPA ON DIOXIN, OTHER TOXINS        

The institute report comes a day after the Environmental Protection Agency reported that dioxin levels increased to 328 pounds in 2001, up from 220 pounds the year earlier. However, levels have declined by 76 percent since the 1970s.        The EPA added that overall the amount of toxic chemicals released into the environment declined 13 percent in 2001. Some 6.16 billion pounds were released that year, down from 7.1 billion pounds a year earlier, the EPA reported.        ³The good news is that overall pollution has declined,² said Jeremiah Baumann, an environmental health specialist for U.S. Public Interest Research Group. ³But the bad news,² he said referring to dioxins and lead, ³is that for some of the most toxic chemicals, we¹re seeing more, not less pollution.²        Hard-rock mining companies and coal-burning power plants repeated their status as the biggest polluters. EPA¹s Toxics Release Inventory, created under 1986 law, includes information on more than 650 toxic chemicals.        Linda Fisher, EPA¹s acting administrator, said the inventory is one of the most important things EPA does. People can now see figures mapped by state and county on the Internet, she said.        

By chemical, the most pollution came from copper and zinc compounds, hydrochloric acid, and lead, manganese, arsenic, nitrate and barium compounds. Sixty-nine percent of the chemicals went into the land, 27 percent into the air and 4 percent into the water.        EPA required facilities to provide data if they used or produced more than 100 pounds of lead; previously, they did so if they used more than 10,000 pounds or produced more than 25,000 pounds. Lead releases in 2001 increased to 443 million pounds, up from 374 million pounds in 2000.        Because of the change in how lead was tallied, EPA calculated that if lead is taken out of the picture the total amount of all other toxic chemicals released into the environment in 2001 was 15.5 percent less than in 2000.        The EPA data is online at

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