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Heal Toxics is a member of the International POPs Elimination Network

This website provides resources on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) such as pesticides, dioxins, PCBs, and wastes. Valuable examples of community monitoring of health and environmental impacts of toxic chemicals are also furnished.

Further, there is an entire section devoted to chemical safety in its proper socio-political context or in relation to issues such as globalization and people's empowerment.


Dioxin, PCBs and Wastes


Dioxin is a highly toxic and persistent family of chemicals that is an unintentional byproduct of medical waste incineration and PVC plastic production. Other sources of dioxin include paper and pulp mills, municipal incinerators, cement kilns that burn chemical waste, and the manufacturing of some chlorinated pesticides.
Dioxin is a known human carcinogen. According to the U.S. EPA, current general population exposure to dioxin may cause a lifetime cancer risk that is 1,000 times higher than the EPA’s “acceptable” risk level. Other health problems that may be associated with dioxin exposure include birth defects, learning disabilities, endometriosis, infertility, suppressed immune function, reduced IQ and hyperactive behavior in children.

More information on Dioxin
Non-incineration Waste Treatment Technologies

PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls)

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a family of 209 chemical compounds for which there are no known natural sources. The flame resistance of PCBs made them ideal for use in electrical products because they did not burn, break down, or react with other chemicals. The unique properties of PCBs allowed them to be used in the manufacturing of many common products such as plastics, adhesives, paints, and varnishes. Between 1930 and 1970, 1.4 billion pounds of PCBs were manufactured in the United States.
The very characteristic of the PCBs that made them wonderful for use in manufacturing makes them problematic in the environment. PCBs are very persistent: they are generally unalterable by microorganisms or by chemical reaction (they do not readily degrade). The stable nature of PCBs also lends to accumulation in the fatty tissues of animals once the PCBs are released into the environment. These accumulations increase as the tissue from contaminated animals moves through the food web
Acute toxic effects in the environment include death of animals, birds, or fish, and death or low growth rate in plants. Chronic effects from PCBs may include shortened lifespan, reproductive problems, lower fertility, and changes in appearance or behavior. The primary concern of PCBs in surface water is the chronic effect of bioaccumulation.
During the mid-1960s, some environmental scientists began seeing an increase of PCBs in animal tissues. In 1978, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of PCBs in all but closed systems of manufacturing. In 1979, the use of PCBs was banned in all applications.
Although PCBs were banned in 1977, they remain a major public health and environmental concern because of their widespread presence. They have been found throughout the world, even in remote locations in the Arctic where no PCBs have ever been used. Estimates are that as much as 3.4 billion pounds of PCBs were manufactured worldwide and that 30 to 70% of the PCBs manufactured remain in use or in the environment.

Update on the Toxicity of PCBs

By-Products- The Challenge: Comments on the Stockholm Convention

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants represents a significant step towards the elimination of toxic substances that threaten human health and the environment. The effective implementation of the Convention requires understanding key terms. These concepts include total releases, continuing minimization, substitution, incremental costs, and best available techniques. The Dioxin, PCB, and Wastes Working Group of the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) prepared this position paper to better define these terms since their meanings will affect enabling activities leading to implementation of the Convention. These views also reflect the sentiments of hundreds of non-governmental organizations around the world active on these issues.

IPEN Dioxin, PCB, and Wastes Working Group Position Paper


Other Resources:

Waste Not, Burn Not

Pesticide Action Network Philippines' flyer for general information-dissemination on the Global Day of Action Against Waste

Technical Reports for Dioxin in Australia
by the Commonwealth Department of Environment

The full set of technical reports for dioxins in Australian blood, breast milk, fauna, air, aquatic environments, soil, food, plus the human health risk assessment, ecotox risk assessment etc. were released for comment.

Report on Dioxin Exposure Cancer Risk
by Cancer Action NY

The reports contained in this document strongly support the position that
pollution is a major factor in cancer causation. This information constitutes a scientific basis for pollutant cancer risk factor education. Government should be providing such education in order to reach the goal of decreased exposure of the general public to pollutant carcinogens. As the public comes to more fully understand the association between pollutant exposure and disease, support will grow for pollution minimization policy change. The materials describing dioxin exposure cancer risk are of particular significance due to the 1 in 1000 excess cancer risk attributed to background levels of dioxin exposure in the United States. Dioxin exposure occurs at this level or above for most industrialized nations.

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