JOHN FLESHER, DETROIT FREE PRESS, AUGUST 15, 2006
Residents of some areas near the Dow Chemical Co. plant in Midland, Mich., have higher levels of dioxins in their bodies than people studied elsewhere, a University of Michigan study found.
But pollution from Dow is just one possible reason for the difference — and a small one at that, the report said. The primary explanation is that people living near the plant tend to be older than those in the other group studied, said David Garabrant, an epidemiologist and specialist in occupational and emergency medicine and the leader of the inquiry.
The report, released Tuesday, is “the first major study to show exactly how much exposure to dioxin people have in this area and how the dioxins get into their bodies,” Garabrant said.
Dow funded the study, which focused on sections of Midland and Saginaw counties near its plant. Dioxins, a group of toxins, were generated by company processes over several decades. One of the chemicals is known to cause cancer.
The study found that people in one of the areas studied, the Tittabawassee River floodplain, had 28 percent higher median levels of “dioxin-like chemicals” in their blood than members of a comparison group in Jackson and Calhoun counties.
Those counties were chosen because they are near the Midland-Saginaw area but more than 100 miles from the plant.
Older people tended to have higher dioxin levels, the report said. It also linked the elevated levels with eating foods such as fish from tainted waters and living where the soil is contaminated.
“This study provides facts that will allow the people of Midland and Saginaw and the people of Michigan to develop a plan for dealing with the contamination that is factually based and not based on speculation,” Garabrant said.