Dioxin expert: Education a challenge
Kathie Marchlewski, Midland Daily News, 02/11/2005Contrary to what the environutz will tell you, Dr. Young does NOT work for Dow. He IS a renowned expert on all things dioxin. I was privileged to meet him during his visit to Midland and he is truly a remarkable person. You will find Dr. Young on the web at " The Alvin L. Young Collection on Agent Orange".
For nearly 35 years, Dr. Alvin L. Young has been dealing with dioxin. He's studied its potential health effects, its effects on the environment and on hundreds of animals, insects and fish. He's come to the conclusion that the toxin "won't kill a bullfrog."
His biggest challenge, he says: communicating the science to a public frightened by media.
The once-advisor to the White House says an Internet search brings more than 100,000 dioxin or dioxin-related websites containing "half-truths at best."
Young, who has testified on behalf of The Dow Chemical Co. and other chemical companies in asbestos and Agent Orange-related lawsuits, explained his research to a group of about 70 Wednesday at the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library. The event was part of the MATRIX:Midland lecture series.
"Dioxin isn't a good thing. I'm not going to whitewash it," he said. "It's a very toxic material. It's a very persistent material."
But after a 21-year career with the U.S. Air Force as a project scientist, he says there's not one confirmed death from dioxin in Agent Orange or otherwise. The overall mortality rate among veterans assumed to be exposed was not elevated, nor was the overall cancer rate. In the environment, TCDD in Agent Orange is almost entirely destroyed by photodegradation within a matter of hours in direct sunlight, he said.
When Missouri's Times Beach became the site of a large-scale cleanup, he remembers that for some scientists, fear had nothing to do with the toxicity of the material.
From a risk-assessment standpoint, Young said transport of soil was more dangerous than the dioxin in it. "The probability of long-term health effects was zip. The probability of an accident occurring was huge," Young said. He recalls that during cleanup, a dump truck carrying material hit a bus and killed five children.
Convincing a society that's already made up its mind about the danger of dioxin is a terrible problem, he said. He remembers the explanation given by Congress. "The answer was: It was no longer a science problem, it was a society problem. The scientists had our chance. It was time for a political solution."
He doesn't hesitate to talk about chemical industry funding for Agent Orange and dioxin research, and credits Dow scientists -- including Midland's Warren Crummett, author of "Decades of Dioxin" -- as vital contributors to studies. In the first days of dioxin research, it was companies like Dow and Monsanto that were able to fund academic research, though it remained independent. "We didn't ask Dow or Monsanto to approve it," he said.
Midlander Ted Doan agreed that educating the public on dioxin is a challenge, in part because of Dow's involvement. "People expect Dow people to be so prejudiced in favor of Dow that they write us off. On the other side, they have no proof that dioxin causes cancer in humans."
Dr. Garabrant sending out data to volunteers The Saginaw News, 02/11/05 Jeremiah also reported:
Researchers will host a public meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 10, to answer any questions about the blood sample results. The meeting is scheduled at Freeland Elementary School, 710 Powley.I hope we will see you there in support of Dr. Garabrant. I will attend, even though it means missing a Saginaw Valley Computer Association meeting. (Thank God for ex-President Lynn Kauer!)