Recent media reports might lead one to believe that a comprehensive, properly planned and funded
Dioxin Health & Exposure Study of the Tittabawassee Flood Plain is going to take place this summer for the Tittabawassee River flood plain residents. This is not the case.
And further more, a Health Study is NOT required before cleanup/remediation begins. While a Health Study may improve our understanding of dioxin and it's impact on human heath, it will not make anyone living in the flood plain safer or reduce their exposure to it. Health studies can take years to conduct. Precautionary principles dictate that we identify the contaminated areas now and remediate as they are found to protect those affected. Especially children. Establishing medical monitoring for all residents in the affected areas will lead to the early detection & possible intervention of dioxin related health issues.
The small sampling of 25 individuals mentioned by Dr. Wade of the MDCH at the Freeland High
School public meeting on 6/24/03 is being conducted to assist in the planning of a comprehensive
Health Study. That's all it is, a tool for planning, nothing more.
The good news is that they may discover a few individuals with elevated dioxin levels and initiate remedial action immediately. However, finding "normal" levels proves nothing, as the number of samples does not statistically represent the former and current resident population during the entire span of time the dioxin has been present. Dioxin accumulates in the body, a single dose can remain in tissues for 7-14 years. Someone buying contaminated property 2 years ago may not have been exposed to the same level as someone who lived in the same house for the prior 20 years. The people who lived in the area and moved out must be included in a comprehensive health study, as should a community known to have "normal background " dioxin levels. The population most sensitive to dioxin exposure, children, will not be tested in this small sampling. There are probably hundreds other reasons why this small sampling must not be construed as a "Health Study".
There is also a good chance that even the results of a "Comprehensive Health Study " will come back as indeterminate because of the statistically small sample size of estimated 2000 residents of the flood plain. In other words, waiting 5 years for the results of a health study may prove nothing and the people living in the contaminated areas will have yet another 5 years of dioxin accumulation in their bodies.
We feel that the MDCH must be crystal clear when communicating the results of the 25-sample study and the conclusions that can be drawn from them. They must take the extra time to explain the significance of the results (25 sample vs. comprehensive health study) in all publications, meetings, and media interviews. There is great danger here that the polluter will misrepresent the findings of this extremely small study and further confuse the issue.
The various agencies of the State of Michigan (MDCH, MDEQ, etc.) are to be commended in
their attempts to regain the trust of it's citizens. The establishment of a "Tri-County Project Coordination & Community Involvement Plan" will hopefully provide citizen oversight of the Health Study development. Citizen's involvement will also ensure that the polluter does not have adverse influence on its outcome.