February 25, 2000
HIGH DIOXIN LEVELS THREATEN LOUISIANA BLACK COMMUNITY
Scientist criticizes study on residents at center of
environmental racism controversy.
WASHINGTON -- A senior scientist at Greenpeace issued
a report today:
criticizing serious flaws in an Agency for Toxic Substances
and Disease Registry report on dioxin contamination in the
predominantly African American town of Mossville, La.
"ATSDR claims that the dioxin levels in the soils, chicken
eggs and breast milk from Mossville are not elevated," said
Pat Costner, Greenpeace senior scientist, "but its data
show that dioxins in the soil are twice as high as the U.S.
average; dioxins in the breast milk sample are 30 percent
higher than the U.S. average; and dioxins in the chicken
eggs are almost twice as high as the level that the Food
and Drug Adminstration considers to be 'adulterated'."
In April 1999, an arm of the U.S. Public Health Service,
ATSDR, released a report of its investigation of dioxin
contamination in Mossville. In the report, ATSDR concluded
that dioxin levels are elevated and higher than the national
average in some of the people in this small African American
community. The town is next door to several vinyl chloride
monomer and chlorine manufacturing facilities that emit
The plight of the impoverished semi-rural town has
gained national attention as a result of pressure by local
residents, Greenpeace and national and international human
rights and environmental protection groups. The community
has been deemed one of the sickest in the nation by a
prominent toxicologist. National environmental justice
organizations and Greenpeace say the community's black
residents are victims of environmental racism.
"ATSDR's study is flawed and so are its recent actions
toward the community," said Damu Smith, a Greenpeace toxics
campaigner. "It has ignored residents health concerns by
boycotting a scheduled meeting with the community this week
to explain its own investigation. The people deserve answers
and environmental justice now."
Without explanation, a top ATSDR official helping to
coordinate the dioxin investigation has refused to attend
a meeting with Mossville residents to discuss the agency's
study. "ATSDR has misinterpreted its incomplete results,"
added Costner, "and there is evidence of fundamental
problems in its analysis of dioxins and dioxin-like
chemicals in Mossville people's blood."
The Greenpeace report:
concludes with a set of recommendations, among them are:
o Identify and eliminate local sources of dioxins and
o Declare a moratorium on new permits for industries that
are dioxin sources.
o Establish a transition planning process to mitigate any
potentially negative economic impacts associated with
the elimination of dioxin sources.
Damu Smith, Senior Advisor, Greenpeace (202) 319-2410,
(202) 285-1260 (cellular);
Pat Costner, Senior Scientist, Greenpeace (501) 253-8440;
Craig Culp, Greenpeace media officer (202) 319-2461
Download a copy of the report in pdf format: