The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is soliciting new data on dioxin from a variety of sources: industries, scientists, state and local governments, public interest groups, and hospital facilities. Significant gaps in the data were found during preparation of a 2000-page draft reassessment, made available for public and scientific comment in September. For instance, the EPA suspects that not all known sources of dioxin have been identified yet, and says its information about emissions from known sources is inadequate. Testing programs need to be developed, and EPA hopes that potential industrial dioxin sources will work voluntarily with them to do this.
Greenpeace is displeased with the EPA's work, saying that "EPA's list neglects dozens of dioxin sources that have been identified in the scientific literature and government reports and underestimates actual emissions from incinerators." The Sierra Club, however, in a story on p. 2 of the September 21 Christian Science Monitor, called it a very significant report.
The reassessment, which began three years ago with a review of scientific work involving more than 100 scientists, is not expected to be finished until late 1995. The connection between dioxin and cancer was confirmed, and stronger evidence was noted that dioxin may result in developmental, reproductive, and immunity problems.
The EPA has also proposed rules to dramatically limit dioxin emissions from municipal waste incinerators. In October it was expected shortly to issue similar rules for hospital waste incinerators. Both types of incinerators are major sources of dioxin.
Dioxin in pulp mill effluent has been reduced 92% since it was discovered downstream from kraft pulp mills in 1988. Now kraft pulp mills are estimated by the American Forest and Paper Association to discharge only one percent of the dioxin that escapes into the environment in the U.S.
For a copy of the Sept. 13 Federal Register notice on how to provide comments on the draft reassessment, contact Harold Hammock at 202/260-4956.