Update on the status of the dioxin reassessment

Date: April 18, 2003 -

The Agriculture Department's (USDA) continuing concerns about EPA's
long-awaited dioxin risk study may trigger congressional requirements
forcing a review by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) unless other
agencies can get USDA to agree on the document, sources say.

But administration sources say an NAS review -- if it is initiated -- could
be abbreviated because officials from a number of different agencies will
call on NAS to conduct a narrow review.

Once finalized, the report could tighten a host of environmental regulations
and cleanup standards across EPA's air, water and waste programs, creating
costly new requirements for a number of industry sectors.

The decade-long EPA dioxin reassessment is in the final stages of a White
House-led interagency review, but congressional conferees directed in EPA's
2003 appropriations report that if agencies could not reach consensus on the
document by April 21, then it should be sent to the NAS.

"A lot would have to happen in a week to be able to finalize the report" and
avoid an NAS review, according to a source familiar with the issue.

During an April 11 interagency meeting led by the White House Office of
Science and Technology Policy, sources say USDA officials raised concerns
about how EPA describes exposure in children, although other food and health
agencies expressed support for EPA's findings. USDA officials are also
uneasy about EPA's characterization of dioxin as a "known" human carcinogen
because the major pathway of exposure is through consumption of meat and
dairy products.

However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and agencies within the
Department of Health and Human Services are now supporting EPA's study, much
to the surprise of EPA sources. Both FDA and USDA have previously raised
strong concerns about the report, blocking interagency consensus.

During the April 11 meeting, representatives from a variety of agencies
agreed that sending a broad directive to have the NAS review the entire
report would not be in anyone's interest.

"If and when this goes to the NAS, the request will have to be clearly
articulated and specific," according to a federal source. This source says
because USDA raised specific concerns about children's exposure, this may
form the basis for the charge to the NAS and shorten the time the NAS may
need to complete the study.

However, some EPA and industry sources warn the research cited in the
agency's peer-reviewed study may begin to be out of date by the time NAS
completes even a short review, raising questions about further delays EPA
scientists may need to revise the report.

Source: Inside EPA via InsideEPA.com
Date: April 18, 2003
Issue: Vol. 24, No. 16
© Inside Washington Publishers


Monica Rohde Buckhorn
Alliance for Safe Alternatives Coordinator
Center for Health, Environment and Justice
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(703) 237-2249 ext. 19

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