Dioxin is a highly toxic and persistent family of
chemicals that is an unintentional byproduct of medical waste
incineration and PVC plastic production. Other sources of dioxin
include paper and pulp mills, municipal incinerators, cement kilns
that burn chemical waste, and the manufacturing of some chlorinated
Dioxin is a known human carcinogen. According to the U.S. EPA,
current general population exposure to dioxin may cause a lifetime
cancer risk that is 1,000 times higher than the EPA’s “acceptable”
risk level. Other health problems that may be associated with
dioxin exposure include birth defects, learning disabilities,
endometriosis, infertility, suppressed immune function, reduced
IQ and hyperactive behavior in children.
More information on Dioxin
Waste Treatment Technologies
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a family of
209 chemical compounds for which there are no known natural sources.
The flame resistance of PCBs made them ideal for use in electrical
products because they did not burn, break down, or react with
other chemicals. The unique properties of PCBs allowed them to
be used in the manufacturing of many common products such as plastics,
adhesives, paints, and varnishes. Between 1930 and 1970, 1.4 billion
pounds of PCBs were manufactured in the United States.
The very characteristic of the PCBs that made them wonderful for
use in manufacturing makes them problematic in the environment.
PCBs are very persistent: they are generally unalterable by microorganisms
or by chemical reaction (they do not readily degrade). The stable
nature of PCBs also lends to accumulation in the fatty tissues
of animals once the PCBs are released into the environment. These
accumulations increase as the tissue from contaminated animals
moves through the food web
Acute toxic effects in the environment include death of animals,
birds, or fish, and death or low growth rate in plants. Chronic
effects from PCBs may include shortened lifespan, reproductive
problems, lower fertility, and changes in appearance or behavior.
The primary concern of PCBs in surface water is the chronic effect
During the mid-1960s, some environmental scientists began seeing
an increase of PCBs in animal tissues. In 1978, the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency banned the use of PCBs in all but closed systems
of manufacturing. In 1979, the use of PCBs was banned in all applications.
Although PCBs were banned in 1977, they remain a major public
health and environmental concern because of their widespread presence.
They have been found throughout the world, even in remote locations
in the Arctic where no PCBs have ever been used. Estimates are
that as much as 3.4 billion pounds of PCBs were manufactured worldwide
and that 30 to 70% of the PCBs manufactured remain in use or in
Update on the Toxicity
The Challenge: Comments on the Stockholm Convention
The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants
represents a significant step towards the elimination of toxic
substances that threaten human health and the environment. The
effective implementation of the Convention requires understanding
key terms. These concepts include total releases, continuing minimization,
substitution, incremental costs, and best available techniques.
The Dioxin, PCB, and Wastes Working Group of the International
POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) prepared this position paper to
better define these terms since their meanings will affect enabling
activities leading to implementation of the Convention. These
views also reflect the sentiments of hundreds of non-governmental
organizations around the world active on these issues.
Dioxin, PCB, and Wastes Working Group Position Paper
Waste Not, Burn Not
Pesticide Action Network Philippines' flyer for
general information-dissemination on the Global Day of Action
Technical Reports for Dioxin in Australia
by the Commonwealth Department of Environment
The full set of technical reports for dioxins in
Australian blood, breast milk, fauna, air, aquatic environments,
soil, food, plus the human health risk assessment, ecotox risk
assessment etc. were released for comment.
on Dioxin Exposure Cancer Risk
by Cancer Action NY
The reports contained in this document strongly
support the position that
pollution is a major factor in cancer causation. This information
constitutes a scientific basis for pollutant cancer risk factor
education. Government should be providing such education in order
to reach the goal of decreased exposure of the general public
to pollutant carcinogens. As the public comes to more fully understand
the association between pollutant exposure and disease, support
will grow for pollution minimization policy change. The materials
describing dioxin exposure cancer risk are of particular significance
due to the 1 in 1000 excess cancer risk attributed to background
levels of dioxin exposure in the United States. Dioxin exposure
occurs at this level or above for most industrialized nations.
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