Environment in Crisis

Dioxin Controversy

Dioxin Controversy

What are Dioxins?
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Early Research
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EPA Assessment
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What are dioxins?


Dioxins are by-products of many industrial processes including waste incineration, chemical manufacturing, chlorine bleaching of pulp and paper, and smelting. In fact any process in which chlorine and organic matter are brought together at high temperatures can create dioxin. It is for this reason that Greenpeace and other environmental groups have called for phasing out of the chlorine industry.

The health and environmental effects of dioxin have been the subject of fierce debate for more than 20 years. Dioxin earned a reputation as "one of the most toxic substances know to humans" as a result of tests on animals which found that one form of dioxin, 2,3,7,8-TCDD, was "the most potent carcinogen ever tested." There are 75 other dioxin compounds, apart from 2,3,7,8-TCDD, of varying toxicity.

Between the 1950s, when dioxin was discovered to be a contaminant in herbicides, and 1995, when the EPA concluded that the general population may be exposed to unacceptably high levels of dioxins, corporations have set out to confuse the public and influence government regulation of dioxin. They have used all the mechanisms described in this book to achieve this: corporate front groups, grassroots organising, strategic lawsuits against public participation, conservative think tanks, public relations firms, 'educational' materials and the media. This chapter describes how they have done this.

In their introduction to Dying from Dioxin Lois Marie Gibbs and Stephen Lester describe the dioxin story as one that "includes coverups, lies, and deception; data manipulation by corporations and government as well as fraudulent claims and faked studies...It's a story of money and power; of how corporations influence government actions and how this collusion affects the public."

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Additional Material:

Dioxin Homepage

US EPA Regulations for Dioxin

Gibbs, Lois Marie and The Citizens Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste, 1995, Dying from Dioxin (Boston, MA: South End Press).

Weinberg, Jack, 1995, Dow Brand Dioxin: Dow Makes You Poison Great Things, (Greenpeace).


© 2003 Sharon Beder