A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 March 1993
The three issues of Waste Not in this mailing all focus on important developments on dioxins impact on the environment and human health. Two articles represent very important firsts, and the third article represents an infuriating repetition of industrial propaganda by the New York Times. The article below appeared as a letter in The Lancet and was sent to us by one of the authors (Dr. Kees Olie). He pointed out to us that this was the first time anyone had related a change in human metabolism with background levels of dioxin - in this case, background levels in mothers milk. While no one can say what the biological or medical significance of these small changes in thyroid metabolism are, the important point is that there are changes. This sub-microscopic message could be as important a milestone as the macroscopic changes we are seeing in the ozone layer. Both result from mans massive use of elemental chlorine in the manufacture of compounds containing the carbon-chlorine bond, which nature never introduced into the mainstream of biochemistry. As a result, nature has great difficulty in handling these compounds without interfering with the normal workings of her systems whether they be in the stratosphere or the placenta. It is another red flag on chlorine use. A red flag unfortunately that too many otherwise intelligent and caring people will ignore because they have been brainwashed by the major news media in this country that dioxin is not a problem for human beings. In issue # 233 we expose the very irresponsible and inaccurate piece of journalism by New York Times reporter Keith Schneider on this issue. (Schneider frequently cites the much discredited Dr. Vernon Houk to propagate the dioxin is less harmful than we thought theory. Houk is legendary for his miserable disservice to Vietnam Veterans exposed to Agent Orange4.) We would urge our readers to arm themselves with at least the transcript4 of the First Citizens Conference on Dioxin and, if possible, the Conference videotape series5. This is, we believe, the best way that individuals and groups can equip themselves with the basic facts and arguments presented by the most knowledgeable people in their fields to combat the insidious dioxin propaganda peddled by the paper/pulp and chemical industries, and their friends in high places. No one said it better than the late U.S. Congressman Ted Weiss:
...Dioxin is unsafe at any dose. The public has been duped by an industry propaganda campaign and a handful of federal scientists who have carried the industrys message to the highest levels of government. They have spread false information about new scientific evidence that dioxin is safe at low levels, and that federal standards should be weakened. The industry campaign is proof of an old maxim: if you repeat a lie enough, people will start believing it...
Opening Statement of Honorable Ted Weiss, Chairman, Human Resources and Intergovernmental Subcommittee. Hearing on Health Risks of Dioxin, June 10, 1992.
In terms of putting the record straight on the dioxin issue we recommend our readers to a number of books and reports.4-13 Waste Not is in the process of developing a bibliography of such material and we invite our readers input for material (books, reports, articles, videos and/or magazine or newspaper reports) to be included in this bibliography.
Sir, - In western Europe, concentrations of dioxins and furans in breastmilk are rather high, especially in the Netherlands, Belgium, and the UK.1 Therefore breastfeeding may expose infants to high doses of these lipophilic compounds. Moreover, fetuses may be exposed to dioxins, since these substances can pass the placental barier.2 Dioxins influence thyroid hormone status, as shown by animal studies.3 Since thyroid defects might have adverse effects on psychomotor development, we investigated thyroid hormone concentrations in a population of 38 healthy term breastfed infants in relation to dioxin content of breastmilk.
Dioxin concentrations were measured in breastmilk three weeks after delivery. Infants were divided into two groups according to dioxin concentrations of milk fat: low-exposure group 8.7-28.0 ng TEQ/kg (mean 18.6) (TEQ/kg = toxic equivalents per kg milk fat) and high-exposure group 29.2-62.7 ng TEQ/kg (37.5) Mean gestational age and mean birthweight were much the same in both groups. Thyroxine (T4), thyroid binding globulin (TBG), and thyrotropin (TSH) were measured in cord plasma and in plasma samples taken one and eleven weeks after birth.
Mean T4 concentrtions at birth and at one week were higher in the high-exposure than in the low-exposure group, but the difference was only statistically significant one week after birth (table). At this time, the T4/TBG ratio was also significantly increased in the high-exposure group, indicating that dioxins affect the thyroxine metabolism rather than concentrations of the major thyroxine-binding protein. At birth and at one week, mean TSH concentrations were similar in both groups, suggesting that the dioxin-induced T4 rise is caused by an effect on the thyroid hormone regulatory system. Dioxins, which are structurally related to thyronines, might act at the levels of T4 transport into the cell, 5-deiodinase, or T3 binding to the nuclear receptor. At age eleven weeks mean T4 values and T4/TBG ratio were still significantly higher in the high-exposure group, as were mean TSH values by this time.
We conclude that exposure to increased concentrations of dioxins, both intrauterine and via breastmilk, seems to modulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid regulatory system in newborn babies.
EFFECT OF DIOXINS ON NEONATAL THYROID FUNCTION AFTER 1. World Health Organization. Levels of PCBs, PCDDs,
LOW-EXPOSRE AND HIGH-EXPOSURE AT VARIOUS AGES and PCDFs in breast milk: results of WHO-
Low-exposure High-exposure p* coordinated interlaboratory quality control studies (mean [SEM]) (mean [SEM]) and analytical field studies. Copenhagen: World
Birth Health Organization, 1989. (Environmental Health
T4 (n=18,15) 122.5 (4-1) 134.3 (4.8) 0.071 Series 34.)
TBG (n=18,15) 520.1 (27.2) 589.5 (30.5) 0.099
T4/TBG (n=18,15) 0.240 (0.007) 0.232 (0.008) 0.45 2. van Winnen J, van Bavel B, Lindstrom G, Koppe JG,
TSH (n=14,11) 10.4 (1.3) 11.9 (1.9) 0.58 Olie K. Placental transport of PCDDs and PCDFs in
1 week infants. In: Hutzinger O, Fieldler H, eds. Dioxin 90
T4 (n= 19,19) 154.5 (6.3) 178.7 (5.5) 0.006 congress, Bayreuth Eco Informa Press, 1990: 47-50.
TBG (n=19,19) 532.6 (16.3) 546.2 (19.1) 0.59
T4/TBG (n=19,19) 0.291 (0.009) 0.332 (0.011) 0.006 3. Henry EC, Gasiewicz TA. Changes in thyroid
TSH (n=15,11) 2.93 (0.41) 2.56 (0.41) 0.51 hormones and thyroxine glucuronidation in hamsters
11 weeks compared with rat following treatment with 2,3,7,8-
T4 (n=18,16) 111.1 (4.0) 122.2 (3.0) 0.033 tetrachlorodibenzo-p-`dioxin. Toxcol Appl Pharmacol
TBG (n=18,16) 519.0 (29.4) 500.7 (13.0) 0.57 1987; 89: 164-74.
T4/TBG (n=18,16) 0.220 (0.008) 0.247 (0.009) 0.040
TSH (n=18,12) l.81 (0.19) 2.50 (0.26) 0.044_ Letter signed by: H.J. Pluim, J.G. Koppe, K. Olie, J.W.
T4 in nmol/l TBG in nmol/l TSH in mU/l V.D. Slikke, J.H. Kok, T. Vulsma, D.van Tijn,
* Two-tailed independent Students t-test J.J. M. de Vijlder. Department of Neonatology (H3N
No. for low-exposure and high-exposure groups respectively AMC), University of Amsterdam, 1105 AZ Amsterdam,
Netherlands. Environmental Chemistry Laboratory,
University of Amsterdam and Hospital de Heel.
4. Proceedings of the First Citizens Conference on Dioxin, edited by Paul Connett and Billie Elmore, published December 1992. Available for $25 from NC WARN, 5301 Rolling Hill Road, Sanford N.C. 27330. Tel: 919-774-9566.
5. Dioxin Video Tape Series, a 10-part video series of the presentations made at the First Citizens Conference on Dioxin. For a description of the video tapes and ordering details see Waste Not# 229 or contact Roger Bailey, Video Active Productions, Route 2, Box 322, Canton, NY 13617. Tel: 315-386-8797.
6. Waiting for an Army to Die, The Tragedy of Agent
Orange, by Fred A. Wilcox, Vintage Books, 1983.
7. The Chemical Scythe, Lessons of 2,4,5-T and Dioxin, by Alastair Hay, Plenun Press, 1982.
8. The Pendulum and the Toxic Cloud, The Course of Dioxin Contamination, by Thomas Whiteside, Yale Univ. Press, 1979.
9. A Bitter Fog, Herbicides and Human Rights, by Carol Van Strum, Sierra Club Books, 1983.
10. Ivy vs. Diamond Shamrock, Monsanto, Dow, Uniroyle, and Hercules. 1991 Affidavit by U.S. EPAs Cate Jenkins provides an encyclopaedic account of the scientific evidence developed since 1984 supporting a causal relationship between dioxin and human health effects. Available for $15 from Greenpeace, 1436 U Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009.
11. No Margin of Safety, A preliminary report on dioxin pollution and the need for emergency action in the pulp and paper industry, by Carol Van Strum and Paul Merrell, 1988. Available for $10 from Greenpeace, 1436 U St., NW, Wash. D.C. 20009.
12. The Product is the Poison, the Case for a Chlorine Phase-out, by Joe Thornton, 1992. Available for $5 for non-profits ($10 for-profit) from Greenpeace, 1436 U Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009.
13. The Agent Orange Coverup: A Case of Flawed Science and Political Manipulation. August 9, 1990 report. Available free from the U.S. Congress, Human Resources and Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee, telephone: 202-225-2548.