WASHINGTON — A federal agency has declared dioxin a "known human carcinogen," but PVC medical-device injection molder Brevet Inc. and a coalition of businesses plan to challenge the action in court.
In a quiet decision, the National Toxicology Program announced Jan. 19 that it will reclassify dioxin from a chemical that is "reasonably anticipated" to cause cancer to one that is a "known" cause.
The decision by Raleigh, N.C.-based NTP carries little weight by itself but can influence other government decisions. Berkley City Council in California, for example, wants to develop a policy requiring hospitals to eliminate PVC when possible "as a condition of operation."
Brevet and others challenged the NTP in court in 1999, arguing that a preliminary agency decision to label dioxin as cancer-causing was made without good evidence. NTP thus far has won that battle, prevailing in the U.S. District Court in Washington in September. A federal appeals court plans to hear the case.
"If they say it's a carcinogen, they can turn around and say I can't make PVC products," said Charles Brewer, president of Irvine, Calif.-based Brevet.
Lobbyist Jim Tozzi, who brought the suit, said the NTP does not have enough evidence from studies with humans, as its own criteria require. Tozzi is president of consulting firm Multinational Business Services Inc. in Washington, a board member of the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness, and a former official in the Office of Management and Budget.
But NTP associate director Christopher Portier said animal evidence is "overwhelming" and human evidence is "suggestive." The same biological mechanisms cause cancer in animals and humans, he said.
Tozzi was critical of the plastics industry for not participating in any of the three dioxin-related legal battles he is waging.
"I don't know why they are sitting on their ass," Tozzi said. "They are not contributing one penny."
Allen Blakey, spokesman for the Vinyl Institute in Arlington, Va., said VI staff met with Tozzi and talked about ways to work together. The lawsuit was mentioned, but "we don't remember there being any specific request for us to support it," Blakey said.
Blakey said he doubts the PVC industry will be harmed by dioxin reclassification because the Environmental Protection Agency says vinyl manufacturing accounts for less than one-half of 1 percent of U.S. dioxin emissions.
Tozzi, who has brought several dioxin-related suits, said he may have to drop one or more of them unless other parties join the suit, or the CRE gets more financial support.
Brewer said Brevet is not contributing any money to the suit and said Tozzi approached him about joining the legal challenge.