EPA should reassess dioxin risk, science panel says

The U.S. EPA may be overestimating the cancer-causing risk of the chemical dioxin at very low doses, and should crunch the numbers in new ways before setting a cleanup standard, says a research council from the National Academy of Sciences. The EPA published a draft report on dioxin in 2003 indicating that the level of dioxin exposure assessed as safe in 1985 could be up to 10 times too high, but the agency has made no policy decisions based on that assessment in the meantime. The NAS council did confirm that dioxin causes cancer and reproductive and immune-system problems in humans. Dioxin, a component of Agent Orange, is emitted by various industries (particularly those that use chlorine) and accumulates in fatty meat and dairy products. The EPA estimates that U.S. dioxin emissions have been cut by 92 percent since 1987, but the slow-degrading chemical is widespread in the environment and human population and can take decades to leave the body.