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The Environmental Toxin Dioxin

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

Dioxins and Dioxin Like Substances:

What are dioxins?

Dioxins are unwanted by-products of industrial processes burning of plastics, Metals Smelting and Refining, combustion, chemical manufacturing including the production of pesticides and herbicides, and natural phenomena such as volcanic eruptions and forest fires.

What are the sources of exposure?

The long-lived and lipophilic character of dioxins allow them to accumulate over time in the fatty tissues of land and aquatic animals and humans. It is thought that more than 90% of human exposure to dioxins is through the food supply, mainly meat, eggs and dairy products, fish and shellfish. The accumulation of dioxins in human tissues begins in utero. Dioxins pass through the placenta in blood lipids, and the full-term human newborn has a body burden approximately 20% that of the mother.

How Dioxins impact health:

  • Dioxins are toxic by inhalation or ingestion

  • Ingestion of dioxins in humans can lead to severe and persistent acne (chloracne), skin rashes or discolouration and excessive body hair

  • Changes in the blood and urine, liver damage or changes in hormone levels

  • Vomiting, diarrhoea, lung infections and damage to the nervous and immune systems

  • 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) is classified as causing cancer in humans

  • TCDD produces a range of toxic effects on reproduction relating to both fertility and developmental toxicity in animals

The Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM) completed EFSA’s first comprehensive review of the risks to human and animal health from dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in food and feed. The experts reduced the tolerable weekly intake seven-fold based on new data and methods. They concluded that dietary exposure to dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs is a health concern as data from European countries indicate an exceedance of the new tolerable intake level across all age groups.

Is there are link between environmental toxin exposure and SARS-CoV-2?

A hypothesis paper published in Hormone and Metabolic Research provides interesting insight into environmental pollutants and the severity of SARS-CoV-2 and that environment pollutants including Dioxins can affect lipid levels and cardiometabolic proposing therapeutic aphaeresis as a mode of treatment.

What is being done?

The WHO states that protecting the food supply is critical. In addition to source-directed measures to reduce dioxin emissions, secondary contamination of the food supply needs to be avoided throughout the food chain. Good controls and practices during primary production, processing, distribution, and sale are all essential in the production of safe food.

How to protect yourself:

Although environmentally the exposure to dioxins may be out of your control, careful selection of dietary fats may help alongside optimisation of detoxification and lymphatic processes. Eating organic produce and selecting produce from trusted sources as opposed to eating food that is mass produced may help.


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