Dioxins are highly stable chemical compounds that accumulate in the body’s fatty tissues where, thanks to their very stable nature, their half-life is measured at between seven and eleven years. Ninety percent of human exposure to dioxins comes from the food supply. As with humans, dioxins accumulate in a food animal’s fatty tissues. Meat and dairy products, fish and shellfish are the most dioxin-contaminated foods in the global food supply.
Forest fires and volcanic eruptions are natural sources for dioxin exposure but industrial processes are the greatest pollutants. Dioxins are byproducts of smelting, the chlorine bleaching of paper pulp, the manufacture of herbicides and pesticides, and open waste incinerators. Although a source of contamination may be local, dioxin distribution is global.
There are approximately 419 different dioxin-related compounds but only about 30 of them are considered significantly toxic. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “all people have background exposure and a certain level of dioxins in the body.”
Long-term exposure to dioxins is linked to impairments of the immune and endocrine systems, reproductive function, and fetal neurological development. Male children exposed to an excess of dioxin during fetal development may experience sperm-related infertility issues in adulthood. Some forms of dioxin are more likely to cause cancer than others.
Preventive measures are best when undertaken as a long-term strategy to minimize exposure and keep one’s body burden at bay. Reduced exposure is especially important for girls and young women of reproductive years. A pregnant woman’s dioxin exposure passes through to the fetus she carries and it is passed through breast milk as well.
To Minimize Exposure
- Trim fat from meats
- Consume only low-fat dairy products
- Avoid commercially raised meats and farmed fish and seafood
- Buy organic meats and dairy products
- Develop a diet more heavily based on plants rather than meats, dairy, fish, and seafood
Source: “Dioxins and their effects on human health (fact sheet).” World Health Organization (WHO). May 2010. Web. Dec 4, 2013.