Groups Wants EPA Dioxin Assessment Stopped

Agriculture and food industry says EPA is not taking into account efforts that have reduced emissions.

Published on: Jan 11, 2012

Saying the assessment is flawed and could harm U.S. agriculture's competitiveness in world markets, a coalition of 16 agriculture and food industry groups wants the Environmental Protection Agency to stop an ongoing non-cancer assessment of dioxin. Dioxin is a toxic airborne contaminant that comes from natural and man-made combustion. During an assessment that has been going on since the 1980s, EPA has concluded that 95% of all human exposure to dioxin comes through food.

Agriculture and food industry groups, however, say the assessment is unnecessary because efforts in the past 15 years have reduced man-made dioxin emissions by about 90%. Those groups say EPA is not taking those gains into account and instead is trying to hold the industry accountable for what are primarily naturally occurring dioxin emissions.

"We are particularly concerned with EPA's plan to break from longstanding international science-based dioxin standards and split the reassessment into non-cancer and cancer risk assessments, while setting a reference dose for non-cancer risk," read the letter. "Since the agency contends the primary route of human exposure to dioxin is through food, this could not only mislead and frighten consumers about the safety of their diets, but could have a significant negative economic impact on all U.S. food producers."

EPA's assessment, slated for publication at the end of January, would set a daily maximum dose of dioxin exposure about three times more stringent than what is recommended by the World Health Organization. Dale Moore, deputy executive director of public policy for the American Farm Bureau Federation, says AFBF is concerned the low daily maximum dose could cause a domestic food scare. There is concern that international customers and competitors will have a reason to erect trade barriers against our food and ag commodities.