Environment in Crisis

Dioxin Controversy

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The Paper Industry

Paper Industry Pressure
US Environmental Protection Agency Manipulations
US Environmental Protection Agency Reassessment

In 1985, following a risk assessment, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified dioxin as a "probable, highly potent human carcinogen" based on animal data. According to EPA scientists: "When the current data do not resolve the issue, EPA assessments employ the assumption basic to all toxicological evaluation that effects observed in animals may occur in humans and that effects observed at high doses may occur at low doses, albeit to a lesser extent" (Quoted in Fumento 1993, p. 53). Because the action of dioxin in the human body was not understood the EPA assumed that there was no safe level of exposure to dioxin and that its carcinogeneity was directly proportional to the dose a person was exposed to. Standards were set on this basis and resulted in extremely small levels of dioxin being deemed to be unsafe. Other countries such as Canada and some European countries took a less cautious approach and allowed standards to be less stringent by 170 to 1700 times (Roberts 1991, p. 624)



Fumento, Michael, 1993, Science Under Siege: Balancing Technology and the Environment (New York: William Morrow).

Roberts, Leslie, 1991, 'Dioxin Risks Revisited', Science, Vol. 251 (8 February), pp. 624-6.

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© 2003 Sharon Beder