Exceeding the Limit

posted in: July 2001 | 0

“Dioxins bind to clay particles in soil and may be transported by wind and/or rain to other locations. The soils on the site are not well contained or controlled,” wrote Department of Health director Bruce Anderson in a November 21, 2000, letter to Tim Johns, who was then director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, owner of the contaminated `Ewa site. Dioxins are often present in the wood preservative pentachlorophenol (also known as Penta or PCP). Pentachlorophenol is one of five contaminants found at the `Ewa pesticide mixing and loading site that exceeded maximum allowable levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency:

Dioxins/furans or PCDD/PCDF (polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxin/polychlorinated dibenzofuran): The EPA allowable level is 1 ppb. Twelve samples exceeded that level; Five of them ranged from 1.4 to 10.9 ppb. The rest, ranged from 44.4 to 752 ppb. The EPA has found that short-term exposure to dioxin above allowable levels can cause liver damage, weight loss, wasting of glands important to the body’s immune system. Long-term exposure at amounts above allowable levels can cause cancer and a variety of reproductive effects, from impaired fertility to birth defects.

Pentachlorophenol: The level allowed by EPA is 3,000 parts per billion. Five samples from the `Ewa site exceeded that level, ranging from 8,100 ppb to 17,000 ppb. Pentachlorophenol is known to cause cancer and birth defects in lab animals, as well as chromosome abnormalities, blood disorders, and nerve damage in humans. As of 1989, PCP it was banned in ten countries (including the United States) and severely restricted in nine.

Arsenic: The level allowed by EPA is 22 parts per million. Seven samples exceeded that level, ranging from 27.2 ppm to 160 ppm. When taken orally, arsenic can cause pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, decreased production of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart function, blood vessel damage, liver and/or kidney injury, and impaired nerve function. Animal studies have found that high oral doses during pregnancy may damage the fetus. Arsenic ingestion has been reported to increase the risk of cancer inside the body, especially in the liver, bladder, kidney, and lungs.

Atrazine: The level allowed by the EPA is 2,200 ppb. One sample exceeded that level at 86,000 ppb. The EPA has classified atrazine as a possible human carcinogen. It migrates easily through soil and is a common water contaminant. Atrazine reduces biomass of aquatic plants and inhibits photosynthesis. Atrazine can affect the diet, reproductive success, and physiology of fish, and in earthworms, has caused weight loss, reproductive failure, and death. Atrazine in lab animals has caused tumors, damaged genes, adversely affected reproduction, and resulted in a wide variety of other chronic effects. In humans, exposure to atrazine has been linked to two forms of cancer.

Trifluralin: The level allowed by the EPA is 63,000 ppb. One sample exceeded that level at 190,000 ppb. Liver, kidney, and thyroid damage appear to be the main toxic effects in chronic animal studies. Trifluralin is highly toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms and shows a moderate tendency to accumulate in aquatic organisms.

Other contaminants were found by the DOH, but at levels below EPA benchmarks: ametryn, glyphosate, diuron, simazine, terbacil, 2,3-D, dalapon, picloram, 4,4’DDD, 4,4’DDE, 4,4’DDT, delta-BHC, dieldrin, endrin aldehyde, gamma-Chlordane, 2,3,4,6-tetrachlorophenol, bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, 1,2-dichlorobenzene, 2,3-dichlorophenol, fluoranthene, and pyrene.

— Teresa Dawson

Volume 12, Number 1 July 2001

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