The Danger of Dioxins and What We Can Do

We're familiar with the Dirty Dozen list – the top 12 fruits and vegetables we should always buy organic, but there's another Dirty Dozen that lists a group of toxic chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Dioxins are a member of that latter group: they are in our midst, they pose a health risk, and we need to know how to avoid them.

Read about EWG's 2017 Dirty Dozen list

Where are dioxins?

Dioxins are substance that are persistent throughout the environment around the world and are the result of industrial activities (e.g., smelting, herbicide and pesticide production, incineration of medical and solid waste) when chlorine or bromine is burned in the presence of oxygen and carbon. They also have natural causes, like forest fires and volcanic eruptions. The resulting toxins can end up in our food chain, primarily in the fat of animals and in the soil. In fact, the World Health Organization reports that more than 90 percent of our exposure to dioxins is through foods such as meat, dairy, poultry, and fish. These chemicals are much less present in plants, water, and the air.

Read about artificial sweetener Splenda linked with toxic dioxin production

Dangers of dioxins

Virtually everyone has been exposed to dioxins at some level, and research has shown us that dioxins can cause reproductive and developmental problems, disrupt function of the immune system, cause cancer, and interfere with hormone balance. In a new study from France, the authors have named dioxins as one of the possible contributors to the development of diabetes.

According to the Environmental Working Group, the general population may be exposed to about 1,200 times more dioxins than considered to be safe for cancer risk by the Environmental Protection Agency. In particular, nursing infants take in up to 77 times the level of dioxin considered to be safe for the immune and endocrine systems. 

How to reduce dioxin exposure

Since dioxins are in the environment and virtually impossible to avoid, our goal is to significantly reduce exposure of what we can control. Here are some tips:

Eat plant-based foods as much as possible. Perhaps the best way to achieve this goal is to focus on a plant-based diet, eliminating the animal foods that are known to contain dioxins in their fatty tissues. This isn't possible for everyone, so if you do choose to eat meat (like I do), choose organic and/or grass fed brands.
Choose natural pesticide control. Many pesticides and herbicides contain dioxins. Check labels before making your purchase, or better yet, use natural pest management techniques.
Say no to chlorine bleach. When chlorine bleach makes contact with organic compounds, it forms dioxins. Instead use natural cleaning products.
Change coffee filters. Bleached coffee filters contain dioxins, and up to 70 percent of the substance is leached into coffee when prepared with such filters. Choose unbleached or metal filters, or use a French press.
Don’t use bleached paper products. This includes feminine products such as tampons and sanitary napkins as well as tissue paper, paper towels, and disposable diapers. Tampons and sanitary napkins in particular are used in a very sensitive area of the body and therefore a woman’s risk of contamination is heightened. Women should consider using organic feminine products. [Editor's Note: We recommend using products from Natracare.]
Read labels for triclosan. This antibacterial agent is often found in deodorants, antiperspirants, and other personal care products. Triclosan degrades into dioxin.

Read more about dioxins and feminine hygiene

Cho A. What is dioxin? How to avoid toxic dioxin.. Apartment Therapy 2010 Sep 9
Environmental Working Group. Dioxin. 2010 Jul 13
Fenichel P, Chevalier N. Environmental endocrine disruptors: new diabetogens? CR Biology 2017 Aug 18.
University Health News Daily. What is dioxin and how can we prevent dioxin toxicity? 2014 Mar 10
World Health Organization. Dioxins and their effects on human health. 2016 October

By Andrea Donsky| September 14, 2017
Categories:  Live

About the Author

Andrea Donsky

Andrea Donsky

Founder & Chief Passionista at See my full bio here.

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