The highest level Dioxin was detected in the blood in Japan.


March 27, 1999

Resources: Asahi newspaper

The Ministry of Labor said March 26 that A record level of cancer-causing dioxin was detected in the blood of a former waste incinerator worker in Nose, Osaka Prefecture.

The man's blood was contained 805.8-pg/g fat in blood about 40 times the average dioxin level in people in developed nations. It was the highest level ever-recorded in Japan.

The ministry conducted blood tests on 92 people between the ages of 16 and 72 who had worked at the Toyono District Beautification Center. The facility opened in April 1988 but was shut down in June 1997 after government studies found an unprecedented concentration of dioxin in soil near the incinerator.

The Ministry of Labor found dioxin levels of 633 pg/g and 532-pg/g fat in blood in other former workers. The officials said 15 workers had dioxin concentrations of 100 pg/g fat in blood or higher. The average level in the blood samples was 84.8 pg/g fat in blood.

Masatoshi Morita, regional environment director at the Environment Agency's National Institute of Environmental Studies, said health problems would likely occur in people with a dioxin concentration of 400 pg/g fat in blood or more.

However, Morita said it would be wrong to blame all illnesses on the high levels of dioxin.

Morita said experts understand that a dioxin level of 100-pg/g fat in blood can create problems in the immune, reproductive and nervous systems. Long-term follow-ups would be necessary for those workers, the director said.

The ministry officials categorized the 92 former workers according to where they worked at the Nose facility. Of the 56 people who never entered the facility, the average dioxin level in their blood samples was 34 pg/g fat in blood.

The average was 66-pg/g fat in blood for eight people who entered the facility where the incinerator was located but did not approach the furnace.

Among the 13 workers who worked inside the facility but never at the incinerator itself, the average concentration was 93 pg/g fat in blood.

The dioxin contamination level soared to average 323 pg/g fat in blood for those who worked inside the incinerator. The figure is six times higher than central government's suggested maximum daily intake of dioxin, the Labor Ministry's survey said.

The survey said the extremely high dioxin concentration levels were likely caused by exposure to dioxin-contaminated ashes in the incinerator.

The survey also showed 30 percent of people who worked inside the incinerator never wore masks, which could have prevented them from inhaling the ashes.

Although the Labor Ministry officials described the case as unprecedented, they said the level of contamination was not that severe compared with accidents at chemical facilities overseas.

However, observers said the Nose tests would inevitably trigger health concerns among the 260,000 employees who work at public and private waste incinerators nationwide.

Local governments that run incinerators have started taking measures to clean up the facilities and are introducing new monitoring systems.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare on Friday instructed prefectural governments to prevent ashes from escaping into the atmosphere, officials said. Prefectural governments are responsible for the administration of waste incinerators.