public consultation paper to review the control measures that have
been put in place to reduce emissions of dioxins to the environment.
'This consultation paper sets out the considerable amount we have
achieved in reducing exposure to these toxic compounds, but there is
still more to do. This is a global issue, with the UK participating
in a number of international agreements seeking to achieve a common
goal - to reduce or eliminate releases of these compounds. We are,
therefore, seeking views and comments from all stakeholders on the
ways that this can most effectively be achieved.'
Alongside a partial regulatory impact assessment the paper, entitled
'Dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in the UK Environment', will serve as a
focus for stakeholders when considering what further actions are
required to reduce environmental and human exposure to dioxins and
dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
Dioxins are environmental contaminants unintentionally produced in
small quantities in most combustion processes. They are persistent in
the environment and tend to accumulate in biological systems.
One of the most extensively studied of these,
2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, exhibits a broad range of toxic
effects in animal studies, some at very low doses.
Dioxins and PCBs can be detected in all foods and food contributes
95% of all human exposure to these compounds. Even at the highest
levels found in food dioxins do not have an immediate effect on
health - the potential risks come from long-term exposure. In the UK
exposure through food has fallen by 75% over the past 20 years and
this has reduced any associated health risks.
1. PCBs were manufactured and used in a range of industrial
applications until the 1970s, but have since been discontinued. They
are also persistent in the environment, have the potential to
bioaccumulate and some exhibit dioxin-like biological activity.
2. Following the commissioning of a review by the Food Standards
Agency (FSA), the Committee on Toxicity recommended a tolerable daily
intake (TDI) for dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs of 2 picogram TEQ per
kg body weight in line with other international and European expert
committees (where TEQ relates the toxicity of a mixture of dioxins
and dioxin-like PCBs to the amount of the most toxic dioxin which
would give the same effect and a picogram is one millionth of one
millionth of a gram).
3. The TDI is the maximum amount of a contaminant which can be
consumed every day over a lifetime without causing any harm. It is
set using a precautionary approach, with built in safety factors, and
exceeding it erodes the safety margin but does not necessarily result
in a risk to health.
4. Based on 1997 diets, average intakes for the UK population are 1.8
picograms per kilogram body weight per day. In common with USA and
other EU member states, about one third of the UK population may
exceed the TDI in their daily diet. However, of those that exceed,
FSA data show almost all will be below 3.5 picograms per kilogram
which is considered to represent a very small erosion of the safety
5. Measures already taken on the major emissions sources have seen
reductions in both emissions to the environment, and of the levels in
food, by approximately 70% over the past 10 years. Further
reductions, particularly from diffuse sources, may not be
straightforward, and the consultation seeks views on additional
methods of control by.
6. The consultation paper is published by the department for
environment, food and rural affairs. Copies of the paper and the
partial regulatory impact assessment are available here.
7. Responses for England and Wales should be sent to the above
address/e-mail address. For Scotland these should be sent to Mr A
Taylor, Air Quality Team, ERAD ACE, Scottish Executive, Area 1H,
Victoria Quay, Edinburgh EH6 6QQ.