Toxic Dioxin, Found Heavily Concentrated in 9/11 Debris and Dust, Linked to Learning Disabilities, Infertility, Birth Defects, and Diabetes
In NYC, Health and Environmental Groups Call on Mayor’s Office to Phase Out Purchase of Toxic PVC Plastic, a Major Source of Dioxin Releases, and Finally Comply with 2005 Green Purchasing Laws
The US EPA has finally released their major report on the noncancer health effects of dioxin, which for the past twenty seven years has been delayed due to interference from the chemical industry. In New York City, where recent reports of high dioxin concentrations in 9/11 dust and debris have been making headlines, health and environmental advocates called for renewed urgency by the Bloomberg Administration to finally comply with a NYC “green” purchasing law requiring the reduction of products that release dioxin into the environment.
Last month, leaders of business, health, labor, environmental and community organizations testified before NY City Council’s Committees on Contracts and Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, citing the City’s failure to implement Local Law 120 of 2005, which requires the City to reduce the purchase of products which release dioxin. The purchasing rules were due by January 1, 2008, however the Mayor's Office of Contract Services has yet to issue them. New York City agencies spend billions of dollars in procurement every year, which can have a major impact on public health and the environment through the purchase of products like PVC that form dioxin. In 2010, NYC agencies procured almost $17 billion worth of supplies, services and construction.
“We applaud EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and the Obama Administration for finalizing this important health report on dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals on the planet,” said Daniel Gradess, Organizer with the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice (CHEJ). “Now the Bloomberg Administration must step up to the plate. The report’s findings – that dioxin is linked with many serious chronic health hazards, including learning disabilities, infertility, birth defects, and diabetes – underscore the need for New York City to finally issue rules for limiting dioxin emissions by city agencies, especially eliminating the purchase of PVC plastic, one of the leading sources of dioxin.”
NYC firefighters and other first responders are exposed to elevated levels of dioxin during accidental building fires when PVC plastic burns in City buildings. After 9/11, high levels of dioxin were documented in the air in lower Manhattan. Dioxin has been in the news recently for its role in a debate over the release of cancer statistics among 9/11 first-responders, and is one of the carcinogenic chemicals recently found in the dust taken off a 9/11 police officer’s uniform. In 2001, an OSHA employee wrote to the OSHA administrator and stated, "Just received a sample taken at the WTC (in or near the plume I believe). The result was very high … EPA is saying it is one of the highest levels they have ever seen." According to an EPA report, dioxin levels in NYC were, "likely the highest ambient concentrations that have ever been reported."
In May 2011, a broad coalition of groups sent a letter to the NYC Mayor’s Office of Contract Services expressing concern about the NYC dioxin purchasing regulations. Signed by over 20 local, state, and national environmental, health, labor, and community environmental justice groups, including UFT, CSEA, NYCOSH, Make the Road NY, WE ACT, Mother’s on the Move, Learning Disabilities Association of NYS, NRDC, NYPIRG, NY Lawyers for the Public Interest, CHEJ, and others, the groups urged MOCS to include PVC-free purchasing goals and provisions in the rules, to adequately implement Local Law 120 of 2005.
In addition to being a known human carcinogen, Dioxin also causes a wide range of adverse non-cancer effects including reproductive, developmental, immunological, and endocrine effects in both animals and humans. Animal studies show that dioxin exposure is associated with endometriosis, decreased fertility, inability to carry pregnancies to term, lowered testosterone levels, decreased sperm counts, birth defects, and learning disabilities. In children, dioxin exposure has been associated with IQ deficits, delays in psychomotor and neurodevelopment, and altered behavior including hyperactivity. Studies in workers have found lowered testosterone levels, decreased testis size, and birth defects in offspring of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange.
Dioxin’s effects on the immune system of the developing organism appear to be among the most sensitive endpoints studied. Animal studies show decreased immune response and increased susceptibility to infectious disease. In human studies, dioxin was associated with immune system depression and alterations in immune status leading to increased infections. Dioxin can also disrupt the normal function of hormones—chemical messengers that the body uses for growth and regulation. Dioxin interferes with thyroid levels in infants and adults, alters glucose tolerance, and has been linked to diabetes.
For a fact-sheet on the hazards of dioxin, visit http://chej.org/wp-content/uploads/Documents/Dioxin%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf
For a detailed history of dioxin delays, visit: http://chej.org/wp-content/uploads/DioxinTimeframeFebruary2012.pdf