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A Daily Dose of Dioxin

by allison calder

The Sierra Club has finally won a victory against The Magnesium Corporation of America. Did you know that MagCorp, located on the western shore of the Great Salt Lake, is responsible for 80 percent of the nation’s point-source chlorine emissions? How lucky can we get? They’re also responsible for 90 percent of Utah’s total toxic air emissions… and you thought it was the lake that stunk.

MagCorp is often ranked number one, and is always high on the list on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory, the annual nationwide list of toxic polluters. It’s not like MagCorp is unaware of their chlorine pollution. They have their employees take a company bus to work because their employee’s cars rust in the chlorinated air.

The Sierra Club tried to get some action out of the EPA, and finally got some when dioxin was discovered in the ditches and waste ponds at the refinery site. We know you’re thinking, what is dioxin? Dioxin is a cancer-causing agent that is formed by “burning chlorine-based chemical compounds with hydrocarbons.” Ninety-five percent of the dioxin in the environment comes from incinerators burning chlorinated wastes. Dioxin migrates up the food chain and enters humans through beef, dairy products, milk, chicken, pork, fish, and eggs. Men have no way of ridding their body of dioxin. It has to break down according to its chemical half-lives. There are two ways for women to rid their bodies of it: through the placenta—into a growing infant, or its passed though breast milk to the infant. Nasty stuff. Dioxin was the primary toxic ingredient in Agent Orange.

The Sierra Club won a huge conquest when its group, Citizens Against Chlorinated Contamination, persuaded the Utah Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency to step in. The state will force MagCorp to cut its chlorine emissions by 90 percent, and the EPA will supervise the dioxin clean-up.

The story continues to have a happy ending. As the Sierra Club put it, “ironically, MagCorp’s new technology will save electricity as it reduces pollution, thereby improving both the environment and, in the long run, the corporation’s bottom line.”

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