Latest News on that Nasty Stuff: DIOXIN

Dioxin is a rather simple molecule, consisting of two benzene molecules connected by two oxygen atoms, and each benzene has two attached chlorine atoms. It is similar to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in composition and damaging health effects, only dioxins are worse.

Dioxin is aknown human carcinogen (i.e., causing cancer); it also causes a wide range of adverse non-cancer effects to reproduction, development, the immune system and the hormone (endocrine) systems. According to a just released EPA report, dioxin is associated with depression of the immune system, leading to increased infections; it interferes with thyroid levels (a metabolism hormone); alters glucose tolerance; and has been linked to diabetes. A 2003 report by the Institute of Medicine cited a high-priority risk management intervention to reduce exposure to dioxins in girls and young women before they become pregnant.

How potent are dioxins? EPA’s 2010 report states that people should consume less than one-trillionth of a gram of dioxin per kilogram of body weight per day. (For a 100 pound person, the recommendation amounts to less than 50 trillionths of a gram per day.) This quantity is so extremely small that you can consider it to be zero, i.e., a person should avoid any and all exposures to dioxins.   (This quantity of table salt would be a single crystal about the size of a typical bacterium.)

What is the source of dioxins and how are you exposed to them? The major sources are copper smelters, waste incinerators, and paper pulp manufacturing. If you live downwind from one of these, you are likely getting a dose higher than people in other areas of the country. Nevertheless, everyone is exposed to low levels of dioxins because they are carried long distances on the wind, ultimately ending up on the soil and plants; from there they are taken up by any animals  that eat forage, i.e., cattle, hogs, and chickens. Hence dioxins show up in your home in milk, cheese, beef, port, chicken, and some fish. Because dioxins accumulate in the fatty tissue of animals, to minimize your exposure, minimize your consumption of fats. Purchase meats and eggs that come from animal that have been grain or grass fed.


About donlouis

The author has long had a keen interest in staying healthy and fit, and in doing whatever I can to keep the natural environment unpolluted and a healthy space for people and all animals. As a former Board Member of a municipal water district, I regularly had to deal with the issue of water quality. I first became aware of radiation hazards from toxic materials while working on uranium for nuclear reactors. During the 1960s I was tuned into the global hazard from Strontium 90 raining down from atmospheric testing of nuclear bombs. While working in the chemical industry in later years I became aware of the many forms of chemical contaminants entering the environment every day, and resolved to do something about it. I am able to make sense out of the voluminous descriptions of common toxic chemical because of my training in chemistry, with a Ph.D. degree and several decades of research and development work in the chemical industry. My training and experience enables me to present to readers reliable and current information on the topic of chemical hazards in the environment, and their threats to human health. All my life I have loved hiking and camping in nature. Skiing, river kayaking, and tennis have been my favorite physical activities. Nature photography is my artistic passion.
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