Alert 242: 52% of total US dioxin emissions are from Delaware–Up from 38% in 2000

[Note:  Originally published July 2, 2003.  Reposted  Sept 17th, 2015]

Green Delaware Alert #242
(please post/forward)

National Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) for 2001 released

Total TRI chemicals down, dioxin up

52% of total US dioxin emissions are from Delaware–Up from 38% in 2000

DuPont Edge Moor releases 169 pounds of dioxin

DuPont overall releases 70% of the dioxins reported released in the U.S.

Health threats apparently disregarded by State, DuPont

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July 2, 2003. On June 30, 2003, the United States Environmental
Protection Agency issued the “Toxics Release Inventory” (TRI) for calendar
year 2001. Data for Delaware had already been released by the state in
April, but the national data release lets us see Delaware data in a
national context.

TRI Data are incomplete

Before considering the TRI it is important to be aware of it’s
limitations. The reportable list of “toxic” chemicals includes 582
individual chemicals and 30 chemical categories. But, the number of
“organic and inorganic substances” known to the Chemical Abstracts Service
of the American Chemical Society totals 21,688,457 with approximately 4000
new ones being added per day. The number of “commercially available
chemicals” was 6,041,050. See

Some of the chemicals are reportable only under certain circumstances, some
are under “administrative stays” due to pressure from industry (hydrogen
sulfide, often released in Delaware by Motiva and Sunoco, is in this
category) and many highly toxic chemicals such as carbon monoxide are not
on the list at all­again, due to industrial pressure. Reporting is also
incomplete. For example, both Nanticoke Homes and Metachem operated in
2001, releasing TRI chemicals, but did not file their reports because they
closed and went bankrupt.

The Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) says: “ The data
released by the EPA is only a fraction of the dioxin that is being released
into the environment every day. TRI does not include a number of dioxin
sources, including the three largest sources, municipal waste incineration,
backyard burn barrels and medical waste
incineration.” ( This reflects the
conventional wisdom among anti-dioxin activists. However, we do not think
this statement, and similar ones, was made with full awareness of the
emissions from DuPont Edge-Moor. Other large but now-unrecognized dioxin
sources may also exist.

The TRI list, and reporting requirements, also change from year to year,
making comparisons tricky.

A list of reportable chemicals is at

More than one way of reporting dioxin

The TRI requires reporting of “total dioxins and dioxin-like compounds,” of
which there are seventeen. (Considering “positional isomers,” there are
210.) The gory details of reporting requirements are at Some
dioxins are much worse than others. Sometimes dioxins are reported in
terms of “TEQ” (“Toxic Equivalent”), which gives a much lower amount
because only the two most toxic of the 17 compounds are fully
reported. The others are reduced by a factor intended to reflect their
lower toxicity compared to the most toxic flavors. Industrial interests
argue that “TEQ” is a more meaningful way of reporting dioxin because it
has a more direct relationship to toxicity. CHEJ responds that: “The TEQ
approach ignores the fact that different forms of dioxin have different
chemical/physical properties and thus their behavior varies in the
environment.” Green Delaware thinks both numbers should be reported. (We
have asked DuPont for their claimed TEQ numbers for Edge-Moor, but so far
the information has not been provided.)

Overall, the EPA reported a fifty percent increase in Dioxin emissions from
2000 to 2001. Other sources generally suggest that levels of dioxins in
the environment have decreased. Green Delaware is not sure how much of
this increase is due to better reporting and how much is actual increase.

Total TRI numbers are down

EPA says the “total releases of chemicals nationwide decreased by 15.5
percent, or 1.05 billion
pounds, from reporting year 2000 to 2001. Based on trends since the
inception of TRI in 1988, chemical releases have decreased approximately
54.5 percent.”

Delaware also shows reductions, from 9.8 million pounds of “on-site
releases” in 2000 to 8.3 million pounds in 2001. “Total waste” (this
includes that shipped out of state) decreased from 152 million pounds to
116 million pounds.

That is the end of the good news

In a release dated May 23, 2002, Green Delaware reported “[DuPont] EDGE
( (This was
ignored by Delaware media.)

Arrival of the national 2001 data shows the situation has gotten even
worse. Delaware is responsible for 52 percent of all the dioxin emissions
in the United States, almost all of it from DuPont’s Edge Moor plant. Much
of this is being sent to an ordinary landfill in South Carolina.

Total U.S. dioxin emissions were 328.01 pounds.

Delaware dioxin emissions were 169.16 pounds, almost all from DuPont Edge-Moor

DuPont’s total US dioxin emissions were 229 pounds, from four facilities,
amounting to 70% of the dioxin reported released in the U.S. Edge-Moor’s
dioxin releases were 4.2 times a high as the next highest­DuPont’s DeLisle
Miss. plant.

Of this, 0.1 pounds (4.5 grams) was reported released to air, and .04
pounds (17.7 grams) to water. The rest was reported released to land, and
of that 81.5 pounds stayed in Delaware and 87.3 pounds was sent out of state.

To put this in proportion, the reportable quantity of “dioxin and
dioxin-like compounds” is 0.1 grams, less than one four-thousandth of a
pound, and 100 times less that the reportable quantity of any other
“persistent bioaccumulative toxin” (PBT). This is because, as we wrote
last year:

“Dioxin is the most toxic chemical ever studied in detail. It is a ‘known
human carcinogen.’ In addition to cancer, dioxin causes diabetes, attention
deficit disorder, learning disabilities, weakened immune systems,
infertility, birth defects, and other health problems.”

The amount of dioxin released by DuPont in Delaware is 768,000 times the
minimum reportable quantity.

From our colleagues in Cancer Action, NY:

“The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has now released “Dioxins and Dioxin-Like
Compounds in the Food Supply: Strategies to Decrease Exposure”(available in
preliminary form at The critical message of
this report is that current levels of dioxins and dioxin-like compounds
(DLC) in animal fat foods impose a significant health risk upon the general
public. Cancer and endocrine disruption disorders are dioxin-associated
diseases of especial concern.”

“the committee recommends that highpriority attention be given to reducing
dioxin exposure in girls and young women during the years before
childbearing, so that less of these compounds accumulate in their bodies
and are passed on through the placenta and breast milk. To be perfectly
clear, this is a longterm intervention to reduce risk to fetuses and infants.”

Response from DuPont

DuPont spokesman Leonard Fasullo said the Edge Moor plant puts out more
dioxin than other DuPont plants because it makes different grades of
product. “We have to operate differently with our chlorinator.” Fasullo
said that the high numbers for 2001 include the cleaning out of old tanks,
and that “generation” of dioxin is lower. He said DuPont has promised to
reduce it’s dioxin emissions from Edge Moor by 90% by 2007, predicting
emissions in the area of 9000 grams. (Only three facilities in the US are
higher than that now.) Fasullo said dioxin levels are higher in the air
blowing out of the Edge Moor plant than in air blowing into the plant,
because “background levels are quite high” in the area, and other sources
in the area put out airborne dioxin.

DuPont claims that there is not much human exposure to the dioxin from
Edge-Moor because it is contained in piles of dirt-like material which they
call “Iron Rich.”

More than 3500 tons of dioxin-contaminated material was used as “daily
cover” on the Delaware Solid Waste Authority’s Cherry Island Garbage Dump.

Actions needed in Delaware

Is Delaware doing anything to find out how the health of residents has been
effected by this giant dioxin source? Do we know what the “body burden” of
dioxin is in employees and community residents? Is it safe for women
living around the Edge Moor plant to breast feed babies? As far as we know
these questions are not being answered. Delaware’s petro-chemical
industry exercises its political clout to ensure that health officials keep
to the industry line and lack funding for meaningful
investigations. Governor Minner fully supports the industrial position.

An extensive health study of residents around DuPont’s Edge Moor plant, as
well as current and former employees, should be done, including “body
burden” testing for dioxins and other toxic materials.

Delaware DNREC has a small air toxics monitoring program that may yield
some data on airborne dioxin levels in Wilmington but will not help directly.

Probably the most valuable step taken in Delaware to protect people from
dioxin was the effective banning of new large incinerators. (This was
opposed by DNREC, and ignored by public health bureaucrats, per usual but
DNREC officials do deserve some credit for getting rid of medical waste
incinerators in Delaware.) Some Delaware legislators, notable Sen. Harris
McDowell, are constantly conniving to chip away at Delaware’s incinerator
ban. McDowell’s present position as Senate Majority Leader makes him an
increasing threat to the health of Delawareans.

Delaware officials should be much more aggressive in working to reduce the
exposure of Delawarean’s to dioxins. Delaware is an unhealthy place, and
dioxins are part of the cause.

ACTION: Per usual, Governor Minner and legislators need to hear from voters.


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