Dioxins

If you watched the video on waste I posted a few weeks ago, you probably noticed that dioxins were mentioned as being one of the most toxic chemicals known.  So what are dioxins and how can you avoid them? 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has a good fact sheet on dioxins that you can read to find out more.  A quick Google search will lead you to many more resources.

Dioxins are created when chlorine reacts with hydrocarbons.  There are some naturally occurring dioxins, but the majority of the dioxins in the environment today came from man-made sources such as waste incineration, chemical manufacturing, smelting, herbicides and pesticides (agent orange was a dioxin) and chlorinating paper pulp.

Dioxins have a half life of 7-11 years in the human body.  That means it takes that long for half of the dioxin to break down.  It will take another 7-11 years for the other half, and so on.  Because most people are exposed to dioxins almost daily, they just keep accumulating.  Other than letting them break down in your body, the only way to get toxins out of you is to have a baby.  Disturbingly, dioxins cross over the placenta into the fetus and are found in breast milk.  (Breast milk is still far superior to formula for many reasons though.)

Over 90% of the dioxins humans are exposed to comes from animal fat. Dioxins accumulate in fat and are therefore found in higher concentrations the higher up the food chain you go. Fruits and vegetables have very little dioxins, while beef, pork, large fish (especially fresh water), and dairy have high concentrations. The best way for you to limit your dioxin intake is to avoid eating animals.  If you do eat meat and dairy, choose low fat versions.

You can help discourage the release of dioxins into the environment by shunning materials that contribute to the problem such as vinyl, chlorine bleach (oxygen bleach is a good alternative), chlorinated paper products and fabrics, and anything that contains “chloro” in its name.

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