Dow stooge says dioxin risk to residents should be based on science

The evidence of a million malformed Vietnamese children to the contrary, dioxin isn’t that bad for you. This is what Dow Chemical would like Tittabawassee residents to believe.
The company view has once more been given an uncritical airing in Dow’s home town newspaper. The author is Russ Harding, former director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality who quit that post after a scandal created by his attempts to engineer a secret “sweetheart deal” with Dow, in which Michigan pollution standards would be readjusted to suit the company. Harding these days describes himself as a senior environmental policy analyst at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, but doesn’t tell you that the Mackinac Center is a Dow-supported propaganda factory which received more than $1 million from Dow in 2003 alone.
Dow, speaking through Harding, contends that the clean-up of the dioxin-polluted Tittabawassee basin should be based on “best science”, by which it means the bent science it has always employed to whitewash its crimes. Dioxin isn’t really all that bad for you, this “best science” will inevitably conclude. It has happened before.
On May 5, 1990, a classified report submitted to Secretary Derwinski of the Department of Veterans Affairs, by Admiral E.R. Zumwalt Jr, concluded that the US corporations that manufactured dioxin-laden Agent Orange not only knew that the herbicide was dangerous but actually falsified their research in an attempt to show that the chemical was less dangerous than they knew it was. He notes in the report:
Dow Chemical, a manufacturer of Agent Orange, was aware as early as 1964 that TCDD was a byproduct of the manufacturing process. According to Dow’s then medical director, Dr. Benjamin Holder, extreme exposure to dioxins could result in “general organ toxicity” as well as “psychopathological” and “other systemic” problems.
The report states that Dow knew of the threat to humans posed by Agent Orange years before the US military build up in Vietnam. It also notes that US government agencies conducted research on Agent Orange in such a skewed manner as to make it appear harmless. The Zumwalt report notes “dioxin is regarded as one of the most toxic chemicals known to man.”
Keep that quote in mind as you read Harding’s crap, below.
There may be no more important issue affecting the future of property values in the Midland area than how the dioxin question is resolved. The risk posed by dioxin remains contentious. Some environmentalists contend that dioxin is the most dangerous compound known to man, a claim refuted by scientists from The Dow Chemical Co. and elsewhere. However, one area where there should be common agreement is that public health risks associated with exposure to dioxin should be determined by the best science.
The Michigan Legislature is poised to do just that by considering legislation that would require assessments of dioxin risk to be based on the best available science. The House Government Operations Committee passed House Bill 5872, sponsored by Rep. John Moolenaar of Midland, as did the House of Representatives. The one-paragraph bill directs the Department of Environmental Quality to utilize a soon-to-be-released National Academy of Science report entitled, “Review of EPA’s Exposure and Human Health Reassessment of TCDD and Related Compounds” to recalculate relevant cleanup criteria. It is hard to imagine that the DEQ or Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s administration could be opposed to utilizing sound science on dioxin.
Dioxin is comprised of a family of 210 chemical compounds that are byproducts of industrial combustion and natural activities such as forest fires and volcanic eruptions. A likely source of dioxin in Midland is from Dow emissions that occurred decades before air emission controls were installed on chemical incinerators and before the potential risks were known.
The National Academy of Science is composed of scientific experts, many from universities that are independent from the government agencies to which they make recommendations. At the request of the federal Interagency Working Group on Dioxin, the Academy is considering whether EPA’s risk assessments are scientifically robust and present a clear delineation of the substantial uncertainties and variability. The Academy will also address the scientific evidence for classifying dioxin as a human carcinogen and the validity of the statistical model used to quantify human cancer risk.
Midland residents have a right to expect that state regulators and policymakers will utilize the best available science on dioxin cleanup issues; the future of Midland depends on it.
The secret “sweetheart deal” with Dow
In 2001 the administration of Michigan Governor Engler learned that dioxin levels in the Tittabwassee River floodplain, downstream from Midland’s Dow Chemical were found at over 7,000 parts per trillion near parks and residential areas (80 times Michigan’s cleanup standards). But they didn’t bother to tell anyone. Finally the Lone Tree Council and the Michigan Environmental Council filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get the data, alerted by conscientious DEQ insiders. In January 2002 the FOIA revealed that MDEQ Director Russ Harding had blocked further soil testing and was suppressing a state health assessment that called for aggressive state action. Later the Engler administration secretly tried to work out a “sweetheart deal” with Dow to raise the clean-up level of dioxin to 831 parts per trillion, thus circumventing clean-up of the dioxin in most areas. A judge later threw this out.
According to Michelle Hurd Riddick of the Lone Tree Council, Harding could not jump through enough hoops to do Dow Chemical’s bidding.
1. He removed the Tittabawassee River and floodplain from Dow’s Corrective Action License in 2002.
2. Lied to the public about a Consent Order being negotiated with Dow Chemical (October 2002)
3. Blackened out and redacted public documents that made any reference to Dow’s dioxin in the Tittabawassee River (Nov. 2001)
4. Advocated raising the clean up standard for dioxin (March 2002)
5. Denied comment from DEQ toxicologists on the Dow studies in the Consent Order (PRA Nov. 2002)
6. Removed DEQ Toxicologist from public meeting panel because she did not agree with Dow’s study parameters (Nov. 2002)
Russ Harding on the cost of cleanup for Dow Chemical: “That would be a huge expense for them for what they think is not money well-spent.” (Chemical Policy Alert Magazine October 2004)
If you feel like emailing Harding you can get him on

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