EPA, MDEQ won't use U-M dioxin study in decision making
Published: Monday, October 17, 2011, 9:14 PM Lindsay Knake | The Saginaw News
KOCHVILLE TWP. — The Environmental Protection Agency and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality won’t use a University of Michigan study on dioxins to make future decisions on cleanup of the chemical.
Dr. David Garabrant, the leader of the U-M Dioxin Exposure Study, presented the results of the study at Monday’s Tittabawassee-Saginaw Rivers Contamination Community Advisory Group meeting.
About 25 people, mostly Delta College students, attended the meeting at Saginaw Valley State University, 7400 Bay in Kochville Township.
The eight-year study which tested levels of dioxins in soil, household dust and blood samples from residents in the Tittabawassee River floodplain from the Dow Chemical Co. plant in Midland through Midland and Saginaw counties. It found dioxins in property soil and household dust do not have a significant effect on residents’ dioxin blood levels.
Garabrant explained the study’s methods, which included interviewing random participants who live in the floodplain and collecting dust and soil samples from their home and property and results.
U-M researchers tested blood samples from 695 Midland and Saginaw county adults and for comparison, 251 Jackson and Calhoun county adults from 2003 to 2006. Garabrant said they did not study Bay County residents because other industries, such as General Moters, which could contribute to dioxins levels in the river system.
The study found dioxins contamination in dust and soils did not result in increased levels of dioxin in participants’ blood. Ingesting meat and animal products such as eggs and milk from animals raised in dioxins-contaminated areas did increase the dioxin body-burden.
"People should not be raising cattle on contaminated property and eating them. That's very clear," Garabrant said.
Residents should follow fish and game advisories, he said.
Mary Logan, EPA interim cleanup project manager, said the EPA recognizes the study does tell the story of dioxin sin the region, but but it is not relevant to the EPA's risk management and will not impact cleanup decisions.
The agencies concerns are the study did not include children, the study may not have included enough properties with highly contaminated properties and it's uncertain what other activities could contribute to participants' dioxins levels.
MDEQ geologist Al Taylor, said the study does contain a lot of valuable information, but the department had similar concerns as the EPA.and will not use it in future decisions regarding dioxins.
Garabrant said it is “logical nonsense” the EPA does not believe the study did not test enough properties with high levels of dioxins contamination, as it included several hundred.
According to the U-M study, demographic factors such as age and sex accounts for most of the variation in blood levels. Older people and women are more likely to have higher levels of dioxins, Garabrant said.
Living in a home with dioxins-contaminated dust or soil is not a significant pathway to blood-dioxin contamination, he said.
People who lived in Midland and Saginaw counties prior to 1980 generally had higher blood levels than those who were born later or moved in after 1980, Garabrant said.
“This is very strong evidence living in the area before 1980 is an important explanation for why people have high blood levels,” he said. “Living here in the past 25 years does not explain blood levels because the levels are the same in Jackson and Calhoun counties.”
Dow gave U-M a $17 million unrestricted grant to conduct the study and the university controlled all aspects of the study, from design to reporting the results, Garabrant said.
“Dow had no oversight or influence in any way in our study,” he said.
The study did not test blood levels in children or the effects of dioxins on the health of residents.
Dioxins are chemicals that leaked from Dow’s Midland plant into the Tittabawassee River and into the air from the 1930 to the 1970s. The chemicals are linked to cancer, reproductive problems and weakened immune systems in laboratory animals.
Terry Miller, a member of the Bay City-based environmental group Lone Tree Council, was critical of the study’s results because of the Dow funding, and said it needs to be replicated by another reputable university without Dow funding.
If the results are similar, Miller said, they would be more believable.
For additional articles like this one, go to the Tittabawassee River Watch web site www.trwnews.net for complete coverage of the Tittabawassee River Dow Chemical dioxin contamination saga. . The Newspaper / Media page of our site contains an extensive archive of media articles dating back to January 2002. The source organization's web site link is listed to the right of the article, visit often for other news in our area. The Newspaper / Media page may be accessed by scrolling down to the bottom of the CONTENTS section and clicking on the Newspaper/Media link.