Dioxin is a generic term used to refer to the congeners of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs). The principal source of dioxin production is generally thought to be from unintended by-products of waste incineration, but dioxins are also naturally formed from volcanic activity and forest fires (WHO, 1998). Estimates of dioxin emissions in Australia suggest that approximately 75% of the total PCDD and PCDF emissions derive from prescribed burning and wild bushfires. Currently, no screening guidelines for dioxins within soils are available in Australia. This paper presents the general approach and results of a human health risk-based assessment performed by URS Australia in 2001 to develop site specific reference criteria for remediation of a former sewage treatment plant in Melbourne. Risk-based soil remediation concentrations for dioxins at the sewage treatment plant site were developed using tolerable daily intake values of 4, 2 and 1 pg/kg/day. The potentially significant exposure pathways and processes for exposure to dioxins were identified and risk-based soil concentrations derived in accordance with the general method framework presented in the National Environmental Protection Measure (Assessment of Site Contamination). The derived dioxin reference criteria were used to develop an effective risk management program focussed on those conditions that present the greatest contribution to overall risk to human health.

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