Moolenaar's dioxin bill passed by committee
 Kathie Marchlewski , Midland Daily News

The most recent round of dioxin-related legislation proposed by Midland State Rep. John Moolenaar has the support of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality -- something that previous attempts did not.

House Bill 5872, unanimously approved Tuesday by the House Government Operations Committee, would require the state to recalculate its dioxin contamination cleanup criteria based upon findings in a report expected to be released in upcoming months by National Academy of Sciences.

"The best available science, used on a national level, should be incorporated to guide our state level public health policy," Moolenaar said. "This bill requires the state to base their designations on sound, unbiased science, not arbitrary assumptions. I hope the governor will allow the state to turn to scientific data when resolving issues for residents of mid-Michigan."

The Academy, established by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, is a highly respected and diverse group of scientists from around the globe. Since 2004, a group of its members has been reviewing the 15-year-long Environmental Protection Agency reassessment of dioxin toxicity.

DEQ spokesman Bob McCann said the department agrees the findings will be important. "We have no problem adhering to this," he said. "That's one of the things we would normally do."

Earlier this year, Moolenaar proposed that cleanup criteria for any cancer-causing substance be derived under the state's existing methods, unless the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has a different level. In that case, the federal level would trump the state one. For dioxin, ATSDR has an action level set at 1,000 parts per trillion, while the state of Michigan considers anything higher than 90 parts per trillion unsafe. Last year, he proposed that the state adopt the 1,000 parts per trillion. That bill passed through both the House and Senate with bipartisan support, but was vetoed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm at year-end.

The latest bill replaces those suggestions.

Moolenaar said his latest effort will ensure that any action taken by the DEQ will incorporate the best available science to get a true indicator of dioxin toxicity and exposure.

Since the dioxin issue resurfaced in mid-Michigan in 2002, some have questioned the assumptions the DEQ used when it derived its contact criteria, saying the exposure levels, potential intake and other factors were unrealistic.

The NAS review will address uncertainties in the EPA reassessment, including assumptions used in calculating risk. It also will update the assessment with information collected since 1991, when the EPA first released the document.

Dow Chemical Co. officials have not taken a position on any of the previous legislation proposals, but have been looking forward to the NAS review and believe it, along with the upcoming results of the University of Michigan-conducted dioxin exposure study, will provide important information.

Moolenaar hopes the bill will get a full House vote this week, and make it to the state Senate by fall.

About the EPA reassessment and the NAS review EPA's initial assessment was published in 1985. In 1991, because the capabilities to study the substance became more advanced, the EPA decided to reassess health risks. A draft of that reassessment first was peer reviewed in 1995, and three additional panels reviewed drafts in 1997 and 2000.

It was circulated internally within the EPA in 2001.

According to EPA officials at that time, the report concluded that dioxins have an adverse affect on human health at lower exposures than previously thought. Most exposure to dioxins comes from meat and dairy products, which are contaminated via animals' food and water supplies. Some non-cancer adverse effects, such as reproductive and developmental impairments, could occur at or near the levels to which the general population currently is being exposed.

Concerned about the impact of the report on consumers, as well as on food and agriculture industries, the federal Interagency Working Group on Dioxin, which includes representatives of EPA, Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture, asked the NAS to review the 3,000-page reassessment.

The NAS had said the review would be released in June, and now has moved that date to August.

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