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ATSDR Press Room

Preliminary study and investigation results released in Calcasieu and Lafayette, La., Parishes

Lafayette County, Lafayette, Louisiana

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, today announced that it will hold public meetings in Westlake and Lafayette, La., to release preliminary findings from the 2002 Louisiana Dioxin Study and the agency's 2001 Follow-Up Exposure Investigation.

ATSDR will present preliminary findings to community members at the following two public meetings:

  • ATSDR's 2002 Louisiana Dioxin Study of Calcasieu and Lafayette Parishes and ATSDR's 2001 Follow-Up Exposure Investigation will be presented on April 29 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Westlake High School located at 1000 Garden Dr. in Westlake.
  • ATSDR's 2002 Louisiana Dioxin Study of Calcasieu and Lafayette Parishes will be presented on May 1 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Holidome Conference Center located at 2032 Northeast Evangeline Thruway in Lafayette.

Final results and additional analysis will be presented at public meetings held in the community in summer 2003.

2002 Louisiana Dioxin Study of Calcasieu and Lafayette Parishes

The 2002 Louisiana Dioxin Study of Calcasieu and Lafayette Parishes is an expanded exposure investigation designed to determine if residents in Calcasieu Parish have been exposed to unusual levels of dioxin and/or volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

This investigation compared blood dioxin and VOC levels of Calcasieu Parish residents with those in Lafayette Parish. A Community Work Group comprised of 17 members representing local activist groups and residents participated in the study design and implementation.

Preliminary results show the following:

  • Blood dioxin levels between people who live in the Calcasieu Parish and Lafayette Parish, which is the comparison group, are similar.
  • No difference in blood dioxin levels exists in people who live close to or far from industry.
  • Most of the people tested have blood dioxin levels similar to those in ATSDR's comparison group.

A small group of people tested in both the Calcasieu and Lafayette parishes have blood dioxin levels above comparison levels. Most of these people are over age 55. In general, dioxin builds up in the body over time. Consequently, older people tend to have more dioxin.

2001 Follow-Up Exposure Investigation

The Follow-Up Exposure Investigation (EI) focuses on questions about current and past exposures to dioxins. In November 2001, blood samples were collected from people tested in 1997 and 1998 to determine if their blood dioxin level had increased or decreased. Soil, indoor and attic dust samples (called environmental samples) also were gathered in and around the homes of the participants. Some food sources also were collected. The environmental sampling results are being used to decide if there is current exposure to dioxins in a resident's home environment.

Preliminary results show the following:

  • So far, blood results show that while toxic equivalent quotient (TEQ) levels remain above comparison levels. Overall, the 2001 blood dioxin levels have decreased slightly from the 1997/98 levels. Older people have the highest levels.
    To understand dioxin results it is important to keep in mind that dioxin is not just one chemical, but a family of chemicals. TEQ is based on many types of dioxins and takes into account the strength or toxicity of each type of dioxin.
  • Current blood dioxin levels are not likely to cause the known dioxin health effects of chloracne (severe pimples on the face and body) or changes in liver function.
  • Environmental samples showed that soil and indoor house dust samples are below levels of health concern. No dioxin was found in the water samples from three private wells.
  • All homegrown vegetable, fruit and nut samples tested had very low dioxin levels and are not a health concern.
  • Some of the locally caught fish were tested and should not be eaten. Fish advisories already are in place for Bayou D'Inde and Toledo Bend. Residents should continue to follow current fish advisories. Updates are available on the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Web site at


In 1998, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked ATSDR to review the 1997 results of dioxin blood tests for several residents of Calcasieu Parish in Louisiana. The test results indicated elevated levels of dioxin-like substances (dioxins) in several samples.

In response to test results and community concerns, ATSDR conducted an exposure investigation (EI) in 1998 to determine if people in Mossville were being exposed to dioxin. An exposure investigation is conducted to determine if people are coming in contact with chemicals at levels that could affect their health. Testing conducted on 28 residents found unusual levels of dioxin compounds in some of the residents' blood. In 1999, a health consultation titled the Mossville Exposure Investigation Report was released.

Dioxin-like compounds can be found at low levels in almost everyone. Ninety five percent of the dioxins in our bodies come from food sources, primarily meat, fish and dairy products. The major sources of dioxin in the environment include burning waste, pulp and paper mills, and by-products of certain chemical processes.

The dioxin study and exposure investigations were conducted to gain an understanding of the level of dioxin in residents and to determine if there was any health risk from dioxin exposure.

Addressing Health Concerns

To address health concerns of residents in the Mossville and Calcasieu parishes, ATSDR has:

  • Hosted several community meetings since 1999 to work with residents, stakeholders and government partners to determine public health actions that should be undertaken to address the community members' health concerns.
  • Provided an Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics (AOEC) physician to discuss individual test results with participants who want additional information about their health.
  • Supported a symposium on environmental health for Calcasieu Parish physicians and nurses in February 2002. The symposium was well attended and participants have requested additional workshops on a variety of environmental topics.
  • Worked with and continues to work with the Mossville Environmental Health Services Workgroup (MEHSW) to improve community access to health services and to resolve other community environmental issues.

In the future, ATSDR will continue to analyze dioxin data and work with state and other federal agencies to try to meet the public health needs of the people in the community. Additional health education is planned and the agency is providing information to participants and their physicians. ATSDR will continue to host meetings in the Mossville/Calcasieu area as needed to provide updates on the progress of these activities and to provide reports on the agency's findings.

Community members seeking information on the procedures of the public availability sessions may contact Community Involvement Representative La Freta Dalton, toll free, at 1-888-422-8737, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. EST. Regional Representative George Pettigrew also may be contacted at 214-665-8361. Callers should refer to the Calcasieu Estuary site.

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Related News Releases For Lafayette County, Lafayette, Louisiana


ATSDR Study Finds Dioxin Levels Among Lafayette Parish Residents Similar to National Levels
Release Date: Thursday, March 16, 2006
Lafayette Parish residents have levels of dioxin in their blood similar to those found in people nationally, says a study just released by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

ATSDR Conducting Door To Door Visits In Lafayette
Release Date: Wednesday, February 13, 2002
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a public health agency of the U.S. Department Health and Human Services, is currently in Lafayette Parish conducting door-to-door visits to homes in selected areas as part of the agency's 2002 Louisiana Dioxin Study.

ATSDR Sponsors Dioxin Study in Calcasieu and Lafayette Parishes of Louisiana
Release Date: Wednesday, January 23, 2002
ATSDR is sponsoring a follow-up exposure investigation in the Calcasieu and Lafayette parishes of Louisiana. An earlier investigation found some area residents had higher-than-expected levels of chemicals called dioxins in their blood. The current investigation will determine the amount of dioxins and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present in residents of the parishes.

ATSDR Hosts Community Meetings About Its 2002 Dioxin Study For The Exposure Investigation In Calcasieu and Lafayette Parishes in Louisiana
Release Date: Friday, January 11, 2002
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a public health agency of the U.S. Department Health and Human Services, will conduct two community meetings in Calcasieu and Lafayette Parishes in Louisiana.

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