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Dioxins & Exposure Risks

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Published on Jun 12, 2014

Dioxins refer to a group of toxic chemical compounds that share certain chemical structures and biological characteristics. Dioxins can be released into the environment through forest fires, backyard burning of trash, certain industrial activities, and residue from past commercial burning of waste.

Dioxins break down very slowly and past releases of dioxins from both man-made and natural sources still exist in the environment. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "Almost every living creature has been exposed to dioxins."

Dioxin exposure can occur through the diet with small amounts of exposure coming from breathing air containing trace amounts of dioxins and from inadvertent ingestion of soil containing dioxins. Workplace exposures are also a possibility in certain industries. The health effects associated with dioxins depend on a variety of factors including: the level of exposure, when someone was exposed, and for how long and how often someone is exposed.

Studies have shown that exposure to dioxins at high enough levels may cause a number of adverse health effects, including cancer. The most obvious non-cancer health effect in people exposed to large amounts of dioxin is chloracne. Chloracne is a severe skin disease with acne-like lesions that occur mainly on the face and upper body. Other non-cancer effects of exposure to large amounts of dioxin include developmental and reproductive effects, damage to the immune system, interference with hormones, skin rashes, skin discoloration, excessive body hair, and possible liver damage.

Over the past several years, government agencies and industry have worked together to dramatically reduce known and measurable industrial dioxin emissions. These efforts have reduced air emissions of dioxins by 90 percent from 1987 levels according to the EPA.

These are just a few things to know about dioxins and potential exposure risks. To learn more about this or other health & safety, environmental or air quality issues, please visit the websites shown in the video.

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