Found everywhere, dioxin is public enemy number one. To give you an idea of how common dioxin exposure is, consider bleached coffee filters. The EPA says that 40% to 70% of the dioxins contained in bleached coffee filters get transferred to your coffee. Therefore, the simple routine of using bleached coffee filters results in a lifetime of unsafe exposure to dioxin.
According to the World Health Organization, dioxins are highly toxic. They cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, disrupt hormones and cause cancer.
The Skinny Science:
Dioxin is an organic chemical that consists of a pair of benzene rings. Because of their chemical stability and their ability to be dissolved by fat tissue, they can exist in the body for years. Highly potent in small quantities, it is measured in parts per trillion, not the parts per million we usually hear. Dioxins are categorized as persistent environmental pollutants. This means two things: they do not degrade in the environment, and they exist indefinitely once released.
Word to the Wise:
Manufacturing processes are the root cause of our dioxin issues today. This includes smelting, chlorine bleaching of paper pulp, manufacturing of herbicides and pesticides, and uncontrolled waste incinerators. Sadly they are found throughout the world, even in hundred-year-old Greenland Sharks that live in some of the most pristine waters of the Arctic Ocean.
Green your Routine:
How do you avoid this seemingly omnipresent substance? A major source of dioxin exposure is eating animal products, because of dioxin's ability to persist in fats. In addition to changing your diet, here are some other strategies you can incorporate:
- Avoid eating animal products.
- Eat organically grown fruits and vegetables. Pesticide and herbicide residues found on non-organically grown food harbors dioxin.
- When gardening, avoid using pesticides and herbicides that contain dioxin.
- When cleaning, avoid chlorine bleach. It forms dioxin after contact with organic compounds.
- In personal care products, avoid triclosan, an antibacterial agent. It degrades into dioxin.
- With coffee supplies, use unbleached coffee filters, metal filters, or a French press. Dioxin is a by-product of the bleaching process.
- Avoid bleached paper products like disposable diapers, napkins, tissue and paper towels.
Prevention is the Best Cure: Because of the ubiquitous nature of dioxin, the usual prevention advice is challenging. Dioxin is present in every aspect of life: water, air, soil and food. That said, dioxin concentrations vary, so the best advice may be to avoid foods with the highest concentration of dioxins. Since dioxin accumulates in fat -- in both our own and the animals we eat — people with diets high in vegetables and low in animal products have lower dioxin levels. High dioxin level foods:
- dairy products
- Alternative names quick list: DLC (dioxin-like compound), TCDD (the most toxic dioxin), PCDD, PCDF, and some dioxin-like PCBs.
- Dioxin is categorized as one of the "dirty dozen" chemicals.
- Dioxin made headlines when it was used in an assassination attempt to poison former Ukrainian president, Viktor Yushchenko, leaving him severely disfigured.
- Agent Orange made dioxin infamous in the 1980s.
- For more information, check out these sources: United States Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency.
As always, stay informed and green your routine to what fits you best.
Other Decoding Household Chemicals Posts
- The Dirt on Bleach: What Makes Chlorine Bleach Bad News?
- What Is Triclosan? A Shady Chemical You Should Unfriend
- For Frog's Eyes Only: What Is Formaldehyde?
- Bubble Trouble: What is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?
(Image: Courtesy of Chemical Sensitivity Network)