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Dow-funded report claims dioxin poses no threat

Mimsg_dowontittabawasseeriver-80x801_293.jpg
Mimsg_dowontittabawasseeriver-80x801_293.jpg

People living on the dioxin contaminated area should not worry about absorbing the cancer-causing chemical from their surroundings, a Dow Chemical-funded report said last week.

Since 2003 the University of Michigan Dioxin Exposure Study has received funding from Dow to study dioxin exposure among people who live in areas contaminated by the company’s Midland plant.

“People whose houses are on contaminated soil or who have contaminated dust in their homes do *not *have higher levels of dioxin in their blood,” the study’s latest report states. “People eating fish from the Tittabawassee River, Saginaw River and Saginaw Bay do not have higher levels of dioxins in their blood.”

These findings are a reversal of those reported by the group in 2006 and are based on a reanalysis of previously collected data, the authors say.

The report has received widespread media coverage in the area, and the Midland Daily News reports that a four-page summary of the study results will be mailed to 117,000 residential addresses in Midland and Saginaw counties.

“I doubt if the public will comprehend the changes, particularly in reference to fish eating,“ said Saginaw County Medical Director Dr. Neill Varner.

Varner said that he found it odd that the report states that those who go fishing on the contaminated waters have elevated dioxin levels but people who eat the fish do not.

Varner said that he is waiting on a clarification from the UMDES researchers.

It’s important that people understand the risks of eating fish from the areas downstream from Dow, he said.

“The practice is not a healthful one,” he said, “and is one that could damage them beyond repair.”

“The new report is clearly intended to influence public opinion,” said Dr. Ted Schettler, science director for Science and Environmental Health Network.

Schettler said that the report is “outside the scientific norm” because it does not fully explain how it reanalyzed the data to come up with the new conclusions.

“EPA and state public health agencies need to carefully review this brochure and if they find wording that is misleading or troublesome,” he said, “they need to set it right.”

Responding to the report should be a priority for public health agencies, he said, because people are deciding how to act on the information.

Dow has an interest in how dioxin is perceived in the region. The chemical giant is facing a class action suit by residents of the contaminated floodplain and is in the [limit dioxin exposure](http://michiganmessenger.com/34654/epa-deal-puts-dow-in-charge-of-identifying-dioxin-exposure-hazards”>process of negotiating a long term dioxin clean up plan with the EPA.

The latest UMDES report comes as EPA is formally considering what measures the company should take to

In media interviews UMDES lead researcher David Garabrant has insisted that researchers have complete independence from Dow, but a copy of the contract between Dow and the University, obtained by Michigan Messenger, shows that the university promised to allow Dow to preview all communications about the study.

In 2009 an EPA analysis of the Dioxin Exposure Study said that it is of “limited value” because it did not examine dioxin exposure among children and did not adequately sample highly contaminated properties and people who eat fish and game from the contaminated area.

EPA did not respond when asked whether it planned to respond to the latest report from the study.

Michigan Dept. of Community Health toxicologist Linda Dykema said that state health officials do not plan to respond to the report.

“We feel EPA has already analyzed it,” she said. “We prefer to focus our time and effort on public health efforts.”

Among the agency’s plans for the year is a program to teach elementary school students about safe fishing and how dioxin and other persistent chemicals can bioaccumulate in the aquatic food chain.

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