Tag Archives: Tittabawassee

Panel clears way for tougher cleanup of dioxin

DEBORAH ZABARENKO, REUTERS, JULY 11, 2006
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The cancer-causing chemical dioxin — present in some U.S. water, soil, food supplies and most Americans’ bodies — should be cleaned up to a new, much higher standard, a U.S. scientific panel reported on Tuesday.
Experts assembled by the National Academies’ National Research Council confirmed many of the findings of a 2003 report on dioxin by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which found dioxin causes cancer and reproductive and immune-system disorders in humans.
Even though the EPA draft report was made public three years ago, its findings were not reflected in policy, letting a lower cleanup standard stay in force.
The National Academies panel said at a briefing that the EPA’s recommended standards — which are as much as 10 times more stringent than the current ones — should be applied within a year or so, with no further data-gathering required.
“We’re clearing the way for EPA to release this report,” said panel chairman David Eaton, a professor at the University of Washington, Seattle. “Our recommendation is not to go back and start over.”
Dioxin and related chemicals have raised concern since the 1970s, when they were found in the herbicide Agent Orange, used by U.S. forces in the Vietnam War. These chemicals also are by-products of various industries, including paper and pulp production, incinerators and businesses that use chlorine.
Dioxin and dioxin-like compounds stay in the environment, allowing them to build up in the food chain. Most Americans ingest dioxin when they eat fatty foods including beef, pork, fish and dairy products, and others are exposed to the chemical on the job or by accident, the National Academies panel noted.
The Boston-based Center for Health, Environment and Justice hailed the National Academies report in a statement and accused industries that use chlorine of stalling enforcement of higher cleanup standards.
“The first health assessment of dioxin was in 1985,” the center’s executive director, Lois Gibbs, said in the statement. “Over the past 21 years, chlorine-based industries have demanded reviews, reassessments and analysis. … Enough is enough. Let’s get on with establishing health protective regulations.”

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Eating fish or going hungry

SAGINAW BAY TIMES, JUNE 28, 2006
saginawfishdecoy.jpg
Old Saginaw fish decoy
The state Department of Community Health last week released a discouraging report that anglers continue to ignore fish advisories in the Saginaw Bay watershed.
Why would Saginaw Valley residents risk eating fish from contaminated rivers?
We can think of three reasons:
1. They don’t care — or don’t believe the state’s science on the harmful health effects of eating fish from the watershed.
For those willingly playing a kind of piscatorial Russian roulette, probably no amount of education will help.
2. They aren’t aware of the risks of consuming fish from the bay or the Saginaw, Tittabawassee and Shiawassee rivers.
More signs along the rivers and a better focused education efforts could make a difference.
3. They’re poor and they need to eat and feed their families.
So while state and local officials intend to increase efforts to educate residents about the dangers of eating carp, catfish and other fish from the watershed — pregnant women and children are acutely at risk — it won’t stop a person desperate to feed a family from taking the risk.
A child is hungry today; the health effects of regularly consuming toxic fish may fester for years before they show up, if at all.
Neill D. Varner, medical director of the Saginaw County Department of Public Health, smartly notes that fish purchased at the supermarket is not always safe either — high mercury levels in tuna, for example. Pregnant women are best advised to avoid fish completely.
The region’s economic woes also play a role in the decision to ignore the warnings and consume river fish, carp and catfish in particular. Varner, a well-read man with an ear for a pithy phrase, notes that makes solutions more elusive.
“The difference between theory and practice is smaller in theory than in practice,” Varner says.
Any educational effort directed at fish consumption must also include counseling and advice for families who need help buying food. The information campaign must offer advice such as where to sign up for food stamps and the location of the nearest church pantry or food bank. And the more fortunate among us can donate to the United Way, pantries, food banks and soup kitchens.
No child, pregnant mother or struggling father should have to eat contaminated fish for want of safe food. Hunger will override long-term health concerns. Starvation isn’t a choice.

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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.
MIDLAND DAILY NEWS, JUNE 25, 2006
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.
RUSS HARDING
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 harding@mackinac.org

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Survey shows people eating fish they shouldn't

THE BAY CITY TIMES, JUNE 24, 2006
People are eating fish they shouldn’t in the Saginaw Bay watershed, the Michigan Department of Community Health says.
The agency on Monday released preliminary findings from a fish consumption survey of people fishing and eating fish from the Saginaw Bay and Saginaw, Tittabawassee and Shiawassee rivers.
From March 2005 through March 2006, 1,088 people who were fishing in the watershed were asked to complete a survey about their fish consumption habits.
The Bay City-based Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network provided funding for the study.
Survey results suggest there is a general awareness of the existence of a state fish consumption advisory on what fish are safe to eat due to environmental contamination. But many people are not using the advisory to the fullest extent, officials say.
The study found that many people are eating fish from the Saginaw and Tittabawassee rivers that the state advises against eating.
Many people also reported eating catfish from the Tittabawassee and Saginaw rivers, which flow into Saginaw Bay. These fish contain dioxins, furans and polychlorinated biphenyls at levels that could cause harmful health effects if eaten too often, the state says.
The Department of Community Health and the First Ward Community Center in Saginaw plan to work this summer to better inform the urban minority fishing community about choosing safe sport-caught catfish and other species to eat from the watershed. The work is funded by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant.
The advisory can be found online at www.michigan.gov/

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Dow admits massive dioxin pollution but says it isn't all that bad for you

JEREMIAH STETTLER, THE SAGINAW NEWS, MAY 13, 2006
DOW: NUMBERS DISTORT RISK
What state regulators tout as “science” seems more like science fiction, Dow Chemical Co. officials say.
The company has released data challenging the state Department of Community Health’s claims that a person who lives and dines along the Tittabawassee River consumes up to 3,900 percent more dioxin than the average adult.
Dow officials say the numbers distort the risks residents face by living along the river — a position they draw on state and federal data to defend.
“What they are presenting to people is a misrepresentation of the facts,” said Dow spokesman John C. Musser. “It infers a lot greater risk than reality.”
The state Department of Environmental Quality joined with state health and agriculture agencies this year to produce a brochure about reducing dioxin exposure at home.
Dioxin is a toxic byproduct of chlorine manufacturing and other industrial processes that scientists have linked to birth defects, weakened immune systems and some forms of cancer in laboratory animals. State officials have unearthed elevated dioxin levels on properties downstream of Dow’s Midland complex.
What rankles Dow leaders is a brochure graphic that details how much dioxin a person might ingest by living along the Tittabawassee River and eating sport fish and wild game harvested from along its banks.
The brochure suggests that people who don’t follow the fish advisories, don’t reduce their exposure to dioxin and eat deer and turkey from the floodplain could suffer 1,000 to 3,900 percent more exposure to dioxin than the average adult.
“Our purpose here is not to destroy industry,” said Linda Dykema, manager of the Department of Community Health’s Toxicology and Response Section. “It is to protect public health. We want people to understand that if they eat the fish they are not supposed to eat and eat the wild game they are not supposed to eat, their exposure is going to be that much higher.”
But Dow officials say the state isn’t giving residents a glimpse of the “real world.” In a detailed critique of the state’s findings, the chemical giant suggested that the study is flawed. Here’s why:
Not every property has dioxin levels of 1,000 parts per trillion — a level that exceeds the state limit 10 fold. Yet health officials use that number in their data.
A Dow spokesman said a more realistic number is about half that. Using soil sampling data from a Department of Community Health probe into more than a dozen Tittabawassee River properties with presumably high dioxin levels, Dow officials found an average dioxin level of 533 parts per trillion.
State officials say they relied on the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry standard and counter that the exposure investigation is in no way represents dioxin level along the entire river.
People don’t eat the same number of white bass, carp and catfish as they do walleye. Yet the state lumps them all together — even though the first three carry much more dioxin — to determine anglers’ diets.
Dow officials point to the state Department of Natural Resource’s annual fishing census, which shows that a mid-Michigan angler’s diet is 85 percent walleye — a fish that the state recently removed from its advisory.
Jim Baker, fisheries unit supervisor for the DNR in Bay City, said the survey does not reflect anglers’ diets. The fish census runs from January to mid-March and from the end of April through May to assess the walleye population in the Tittabawassee River.
While the survey accounts for all fish taken by anglers during that time, it does not reflect the catfish, smallmouth bass and carp — each having higher dioxin levels than walleye — that are taken later in the summer.
People don’t eat two meals of turkey with skin on and two meals of deer liver each year, Dow officials say. They may eat one meal of each, but a second is a bit far-fetched, they say.
State officials disagree. Yet both sides concede that the number of meals — which have a considerable affect on the results — really is a judgment call based more on speculation than science.
Dow’s objections go on. Officials say the state didn’t account for dioxin loss in cooking sport fish or meat, that people don’t really eat 100 milligrams of contaminated soil a day 350 days a year, and that the state included an extra six meals in the diet of its highest dioxin consumer.
“I don’t argue their math,” Musser said. “I argue their assumptions.”
State officials stand behind the data as representative of what is happening in the floodplain. They acknowledge the extra six meals a day, but say it has little substantive impact on the results.
The state’s report concludes that people who disregard the fish advisories, eat contaminated wildlife and do little or nothing to avoid the contamination will ingest up to five times more dioxin per month than the World Health Organization recommends.
Dow’s levels are considerably lower. The levels range from about half the WHO allowance to a maximum concentration about 67 percent higher than the standard.
Even with Dow’s numbers, Dykema said the data show that people who do nothing to limit their dioxin intake will suffer higher exposure than the average adult.
“If Dow has different numbers, so be it,” she said. ” We used numbers that we thought would paint a real world scenario so people could make an informed decision.”
Jeremiah Stettler is a staff writer for The Saginaw News. You may reach him at 776-9685.

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