Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins - Dioxin Exposure Incidents

Dioxin Exposure Incidents

See also: Dioxin controversy
  • In 1949, in a Monsanto herbicide production plant for 2,4,5-T in Nitro, West Virginia, 240 people were affected when a relief valve opened.
  • In 1963, a dioxin cloud escapes after an explosion in a Philips-Duphar plant (now Solvay Group) near Amsterdam. The plant was so polluted with dioxin after the accident that it had to be dismantled, embedded in concrete, and dumped into the ocean.
  • Between 1965 and 1968 production of 2,4,5-trichlorophenol in Spolana Neratovice plant in Czechoslovakia seriously poisoned about 60 workers with dioxins; after 3 years of investigations of the health problems of workers, Spolana stopped manufacture of 2,4,5-T (most of which was supplied to the US military in Vietnam). Several buildings of the Spolana chemical plant were heavily contaminated by dioxins. Unknown amounts of dioxins were flushed into the Elbe and Mulde rivers during the 2002 European flood, contaminating the soils. Analysis of eggs and ducks found levels of dioxins 15-time higher than EU limit and high concentrations of dioxin-like PCBs in the village of Libiš. In 2004, the state health authority published a study which analysed the level of toxic substances in human blood near Spolana. According to the study, blood dioxin levels in Neratovice, Libiš and Tišice were about twice the level of the control group in Benešov. The quantity of dioxin chemicals near Spolana is significantly higher than the background level in other countries, e.g., USA, Japan or Spain. According to the US EPA, even the background level can pose a risk of cancer from 1:10000 up to 1:1000, about 100 times higher than normal. The consumption of local fish, eggs, poultry and some produce was prohibited because of the post-flood contamination.
  • Also during 1965 through 1968, Dr. Albert M. Kligman was contracted by the Dow Chemical Company to perform threshold tests for TCDD on inmates at Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia after Dow studies revealed adverse effects on workers at Dow's Midland, Michigan plant were likely due to TCDD. A subsequent test by Dow in rabbit ear models when exposed to 4–8μg usually caused a severe response. The human studies carried out in Holmesburg failed to follow Dow's original protocol and lacked proper informed consent by the participants. As a result of poor study design and subsequent destruction of records, the tests were virtually worthless even though ten inmates were exposed to 7,500μg of TCDD.
  • In 1976, large amounts of dioxins were released in an industrial accident at Seveso, Italy, although no immediate human fatalities or birth defects occurred.
  • In 1978, dioxins were some of the contaminants that forced the evacuation of the Love Canal neighborhood of Niagara Falls, New York.
  • From 1982 through to 1985, Times Beach, Missouri, was bought out and evacuated under order of the United States Environmental Protection Agency due to high levels of dioxins in the soil caused by applications of contaminated oil meant to control dust on the town's dirt roads. The town eventually disincorporated.
  • In December 1991, an electrical explosion caused dioxins (created from the oxidation of polychlorinated biphenyl) to spread through four residence halls and two other buildings on the college campus of SUNY New Paltz.
  • In May 1999, there was a dioxin crisis in Belgium: quantities of polychlorinated biphenyls with dioxin-like toxicity had entered the food chain through contaminated animal feed. 7,000,000 chickens and 60,000 pigs had to be slaughtered. This scandal was followed by a landslide change in government in the elections one month later.
  • Explosions resulting from the terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 2001, released massive amounts of dust into the air. The air was measured for dioxins from September 23, 2001, to November 21, 2001, and reported to be "likely the highest ambient concentration that have ever been reported ." The United States Environmental Protection Agency report dated October 2002 and released in December 2002 titled "Exposure and Human Health Evaluation of Airborne Pollution from the World Trade Center Disaster" authored by the EPA Office of Research and Development in Washington states that dioxin levels recorded at a monitoring station on Park Row near City Hall Park in New York between October 12 and 29, 2001, averaged 5.6 parts per trillion, or nearly six times the highest dioxin level ever recorded in the U.S. Dioxin levels in the rubble of the World Trade Centers were much higher with concentrations ranging from 10 to 170 parts per trillion. The report did no measuring of the toxicity of indoor air.
  • In a 2001 case study, physicians reported clinical changes in a 30-year-old woman who had been exposed to a massive dosage (144,000 pg/g blood fat) of dioxin equal to 16,000 times the normal body level; the highest dose of dioxin ever recorded in a human. She suffered from chloracne, nausea, vomiting, epigastric pain, loss of appetite, leukocytosis, anemia, amenorrhoea and thrombocytopenia. However, other notable laboratory tests, such as immune function tests, were relatively normal. The same study also covered a second subject who had received a dosage equivalent to 2,900 times the normal level, who apparently suffered no notable negative effects other than chloracne. These patients were provided with olestra to accelerate dioxin elimination.
  • In 2004, in a notable individual case of dioxin poisoning, Ukrainian politician Viktor Yushchenko was exposed to the second-largest measured dose of dioxins, according to the reports of the physicians responsible for diagnosing him. This is the first known case of a single high dose of TCDD dioxin poisoning, and was diagnosed only after a toxicologist recognized the symptoms of chloracne while viewing television news coverage of his condition.
  • In the early 2000s, residents of the city of New Plymouth, New Zealand, reported many illnesses of people living around and working at the Dow Chemical plant. This plant ceased production of 2,4,5-T in 1987.
  • DuPont has been sued by 1,995 people who claim dioxin emissions from DuPont's plant in DeLisle, Mississippi, caused their cancers, illnesses or loved ones' deaths; of these only 850 were pending as of June 2008. In August 2005, Glen Strong, an oyster fisherman with the rare blood cancer multiple myeloma, was awarded $14 million from DuPont, but the ruling was overturned June 5, 2008, by a Mississippi jury who found DuPont's plant had no connection to Mr. Strong's disease. In another case, parents claimed dioxin from pollution caused the death of their 8-year-old daughter; the trial took place in the summer of 2007, and a jury wholly rejected the family's claims, as no scientific connection could be proven between DuPont and the family's tragic loss. DuPont's DeLisle plant is one of three titanium dioxide facilities (including Edgemoor, Delaware, and New Johnsonville, Tennessee) that are the largest producers of dioxin in the country, according to the US EPA's Toxic Release Inventory. DuPont maintains its operations are safe and environmentally responsible.
  • In 2007 in Italy thousands of tonnes of foul-smelling refuse were piled up in Naples and its surrounding villages, defacing entire neighbourhoods. Polychlorinated dibenzodioxins were found in animals and humans over the lethal dose. Sources of polychlorinated dibenzodioxins were identified in refuse and PVC combustion and industrial refuse disposal in uncontrolled industrial waste disposal. Lethal doses were found in numbers of animals and humans.
  • In December 2008 in Ireland dioxin levels in pork were disclosed to have been between 80 and 200 times the legal limit. All Irish pork products were withdrawn from sale both nationally and internationally.
  • According to the last available data, in 2005 the production of dioxin by the steel industry ILVA in Taranto (Italy) accounted for 90.3 per cent of the overall Italian emissions, and 8.8 per cent of the European emissions.
  • German dioxin incidence: In January 2011 about 4700 German farms were banned from making deliveries after self-checking of an animal feed producer had showed levels of dioxin above maximum levels. This incident appeared to involve PCDDs and not PCBs. Dioxins were found in animal feed and eggs in many farms. The maximum values were exceeded twofold in feed and maximally fourfold in some individual eggs. Thus the incident was minor as compared with the Belgian crisis in 1999, and delivery bans were rapidly cleared.

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