June 14, 2004

Honorable Representative James Koetje

jkoetje@house.mi.gov

Dear Honorable Representative James Koetje,

I am writing to express my concern over a legislative proposal to raise the direct residential contact criteria for dioxin in soils from 90 ppt to 1,000 ppt.

At issue is dioxin; a group of persistent, highly toxic chemicals that cause cancer, reproductive damage and other effects at very low exposure levels. The non-cancer effects of dioxins include decreased learning ability, altered thyroid and liver function, and increased susceptibility to infections. These effects have been observed in children exposed to background levels of dioxins.

The proposal to raise the dioxin contact criteria appears to reflect confusion over the terminology employed by federal agencies. The 1000 ppt level is NOT a "health risk" standard. The Centers for Disease Control health risk standard for dioxins in residential soils is 50 ppt. If modifications are made to Michigan’s cleanup standard, then lowering it would be more consistent with efforts to protect public health.

Recently, other states have also proposed new dioxin cleanup criteria. However, unlike the proposed 1,000 ppt standard in Michigan, these standards better protect public health. For example, Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington have all enacted standards that range from 3.8 – 6.7 ppt, much lower than the current 90 ppt standard in Michigan.

The 1000 ppt figure in the proposal comes from studies published 20 years ago by Renate Kimbrough. Kimbrough formerly worked for both the Centers for Disease and Control and US EPA and currently works for a private consulting firm, Institute for Evaluating Health Risks. Kimbrough testified on behalf of Monsanto in an EPA investigation of falsification of dioxin health studies in 1990. An EPA memo cautions enforcement officials about Kimbrough saying that, "Dr. Kimbrough has provided expert testimony on behalf of other defendant corporations responsible for dioxin pollution even co-authoring papers with these defendants." 1

Standards for residential contact with dioxins should place public health as the highest priority. This is also the obligation of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) who must assure, "…the protection of public health, safety welfare and the environment." In addition, DEQ must determine the appropriate criteria for these protective measures and not delegate them to other agencies, university personnel, or private interests. 

The events unfolding in Michigan are being observed internationally. I direct an international NGO project on persistent organic pollutants (such as dioxin) in partnership with two UN agencies with activities planned in 40 countries. International NGOs as well as intergovernmental agencies are paying close attention to issues involving dioxin and other persistent organic pollutants due to the legal entry into force of the Stockholm Convention. Dow Chemical’s legacy in many of our project countries makes public interest NGOs throughout the world especially focused on events in Michigan to see whether the legislature will support public health by maintaining the 90 ppt standard.

I urge you and the Committee to hear testimony by independent scientists and to fully publicly support the work of DEQ in protecting public health and the environment of Michigan by working to maintain and even strengthen the dioxin cleanup standard. Please share this request and information in this letter with members of the Committee on Governmental Affairs.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

Joseph DiGangi, PhD

Director, International POPs Elimination Project

A project of International POPs Elimination Network in partnership with United Nations Industrial Development Organization, United Nations Environment Programme, Global Environment Facility

Environmental Health Fund

Chicago, IL

1 Memorandum from Cate Jenkins, PhD, Chemist Regulatory Development Branch, to John West, Special Agent in Charge, Office of Criminal Investigations, US EPA; Subject: Criminal investigation of Monsanto Corporation – Cover-up of dioxin contamination in products – falsification of dioxin health studies. November 15, 1990