The Minister for the Environment intends to launch an investigation into the causes and implications of high levels of dioxin in certain areas of Iceland.
As has been reported, dioxin – a toxic chemical compound that was used among other applications to make the notorious herbacide Agent Orange – was first discovered in milk from the West Fjörds in December. This was traced to the emissions from a garbage incineration plant. Since then, high levels of dioxin have also been detected in both the Westman Islands and in Kirkjubæjarklaustur, and contamination of meat sold both here and abroad is likely.
Although health authorities believe the levels of dioxin ingested by people exposed to the chemical so far are not high enough to cause any health problems, the matter is still of grave concern to the government. RÚV reports that Social Democrat MP Ólína Þorvarðardóttir asked Minister for the Environment Svandís Svavarsdóttir in parliament yesterday what steps the government plans to take in responding to the dioxin problem.
The minister responded that “we will have the matter well in mind and I take the MP’s concerns seriously, by initiating a special project director” who will investigate what went wrong with regards to environmental damage at the local level.
Individual municipalities have already been asked by the ministry to either drastically reduce or cease altogether to incinerate garbage. Kirkjubæjarklaustur has responded by not burning trash during school hours. The Westman Islands has asked for government assistance in dealing with garbage accumulating but not being burned.