The Saginaw River should be known as a river full of life, enjoyed by anglers, boaters, and citizens alike, with thousands of people flocking every year to the various festivals held on the banks of the river. Unfortunately, the Saginaw River now has a much darker, dirtier legacy. Thanks to industrial pollution by Dow Chemical Company, the Saginaw River is now making national headlines as home to the highest concentrations of dioxin ever recorded.
This is a massive environmental and public health threat that every Great Lakes citizen should be concerned about.
Dioxins are a class of chemicals that are highly carcinogenic and act as endocrine disruptors. According to EPA , "Dioxins are highly toxic compounds that pose serious risks to human health and the environment." Eating fish contaminated with dioxins can pose serious health threats, especially in pregnant women. And, dioxins have been shown to cause reproductive failures in birds and other wildlife. Dioxins are some of the most toxic chemicals out there- they were the toxic byprofuct of Agent Orange, and they contaminated and sickened the residents of Love Canal!
Early this month, Dow notified EPA and Michigan DEQ of measurements of over 1.6 million parts per trillion (ppt) of dioxin in one sample of sediment taken from the Saginaw River. This concentration is 50 times higher than the previous 32,000 ppt level. According to the AP story, that level is also about 20 times higher than any other level recorded in the EPA archives!
Despite the fact that this is the largest contamination of one of the most toxic classes of chemicals, Dow spokesman John C. Musser said, "We don't believe there's any imminent or significant human health or environmental threat."
Michigan League of Conservation Voters
Saturday, December 1, 2007