EPA work on dioxin and health
EPA Cumulative Exposure Project (CEP) report
on health risks of toxics in food (PDF 428kb). Confirms dioxin exposure
through food to be one of the highest cancer risks to Americans among
toxic chemicals. Corroborates EPA Dioxin Reassessment estimate that
average American has approximately 1in 1000 increased risk of cancer
from food borne dioxin. Also see the former EPA
Cumulative Exposure Project web site. EPA cancelled this important project for unspecified reasons.
Dioxin Reassessment (more than a decade in the making and still
not final). Health Risk Assessment says dioxin levels in the average
American present as much as a 1 in 1000 risk of cancer. For some Americans
who eat a lot of animal fat or fish, the risk is 1 in 100. These risks
are 1000 and 10,000 times higher than the government's "benchmark"
levels for "acceptable" risk.
Open burning of trash is dominant source of dioxins in US
click for full size graph
Graph based on data from the EPA and National Academy of Science,
and Dioxin-like Compounds in the Food Supply: Strategies to Decrease Exposure
Main EPA study on toxic emissions from burn barrels
Release from American Chemical Society summarizing key findings.
"BACKYARD BURNING IDENTIFIED AS POTENTIAL MAJOR SOURCE OF DIOXINS:
Family's Daily Trash Burn Can Rival Emissions from Municipal Waste Incinerator"
reviewed paper (PDF 104kb) on study published in Environmental Science
& Technology of the American Chemical Society from 1999. Download
is from GLBTS
of Emissions from the Open Burning of Household Waste in Barrels--Project
Summary: EPA. (PDF 28kb) The report gives results
of a detailed emissions characterization study undertaken to examine,
characterize, and quantify emissions from the simulated burning of household
waste in barrels. 1998
of Emissions from the Open Burning of Household Waste in Barrels: Volume
1: Technical Report: EPA. (PDF 279kb) Provides information
on emissions from open burning of household waste in barrels. 1997
of Emissions from the Open Burning of Household waste in Barrels: Volume
2: Appendices A - G: EPA. (PDF 1.9mb) 1997
Emissions from Uncontrolled
Burning of Domestic Waste: EPA (PDF 45kb) EPA followup to
1997 study. 2000
News accounts of EPA study
Burning Could be Major Source of Dioxins: Environmental News Service
includes interview with lead author and photos. Jan. 4, 2000
burning is recipe for dioxin: Science News "Prompted
in large part by concern over dioxin emissions, cities around the globe
have been tightening regulations on municipal incinerators. Largely
ignored have been rural households that burn their garbage in a barrel
out back. A new federal study now indicates that just a handful of such
fires can spew as much dioxin as a large municipal incinerator does."
Includes interviews with specialists. References
& Sources gives useful contact and reference information. Jan.
the Backyard, a Potent Source of Pollution:New York Times
by Robert A. Saar, "Household trash burned in one backyard barrel
may release more dioxins, furans, and other chlorine-containing pollutants
to the air than tons of trash burned by a municipal waste incinerator
serving tens of thousands of homes, according to a report being made
public today. " (545 words) Late Edition - Final, Section F, Page
12, Column 1, Jan. 4, 2000
barrels fuel dioxin levels: CNN (Cable Network News) includes
photos and links to related articles. Jan. 10, 2000
barrels fuel dioxin levels: Environmental News Network, by
Lucy Chubb, original for CNN. Jan. 10, 2000
Open burning found to be
number 1 priority for preventing pollution amongst 62 pollution sources
examined by New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation. NY
DEC Comparative Risks Project Final Report. Nov. 2002.
study presented at Dioxin
2004, International Symposium on Halogenated Environmental Organic
Pollutants and POPs, held in Berlin, Germany Sept. 5-10, 2004.
Study re-analyses new US EPA data from open burning experiments and finds
that amount of PVC in waste is the most important predictor of dioxin
All papers presented at Dioxin 2004 are on line and their full text can
be searched using Google.
To get all of the papers, download the entire
conference proceedings in compressed format, along with an index.
Recent studies presented at Dioxin
2003, International Symposium on Halogenated Environmental Organic
Pollutants and POPs, held in Boston, Aug. 24-29, 2003.
Agency report finds barrel incinerator burning of polyethylene plastics
by farms produces significant pollution (Sept. 2004).
The Environment Agency has carried out a technical and scientific assessment
of the drum incinerator that indicates that the environmental impact
from drum incinerators is far more significant than previously thought.
The research concludes that the design of a drum incinerator is such
that its combustion efficiency is little better than open burning. The
emissions to air are not significantly different from that which would
be produced by burning the plastics and other materials on a bonfire.
PVC + open burning = dioxin
by Swedish EPA finds PVC plastic (polyvinyl chloride or vinyl) to
be major source of dioxin in home burning:
"Chlorine-containing plastic waste gave rise to high emissions."
The most common chlorine-containing waste is PVC found in so-called blister-packs.
In the US, another common type of chlorine-containing plastic waste is
PVDC (polyvinylidene chloride) or the original Saran Wrap commonly used
to wrap foods. PVC is also found in other disposable items and packaging,
often disguised as a layer in multi-layer plastics. The Swedish study
looked at burning trash in home wood stoves and boilers, but applies to
outdoor burning as well.
Danish study says home burning of trash may be one of largest sources
of dioxin in Denmark. Home
Fires Targeted in Danish Dioxin Warning COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Feb.
1, 2001 (ENS) - "The Danish environmental protection agency (EPA)
today launched an information campaign aimed at householders, warning
of the environmental hazards of burning waste in domestic heating boilers
and wood stoves. 'Milk cartons, painted and impregnated wood, printed
matter and plastics are rubbish which belong in the waste bin - not the
oven!' the agency said."
of Maine 1997 Backyard Trash Burning (BYB) Study: Maine DEP.
This study found that dioxin and particulate emissions may pose a local
public health risk. Backyard burning was identified as a major source
of dioxin statewide. The dioxin content in the ashes was determined to
substantially exceed state guidelines for land spreading. Web page gives
executive summary. Full report available by writing agency.
Threats to the Health of Children: The Asian Perspective: Environmental
Health Perspectives "Exposure to dioxins and furans ... is
likely to be significant because of the common practice of burning plastics
in backyard burn barrels and city dumps." Oct. 2000.