Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Medicine Earth Science

Infants Ingest 77 Times the Safe Level of Dioxin 343

An anonymous reader writes "The Environmental Protection Agency is holding public hearings beginning today to review a proposed safe exposure limit for dioxin, a known carcinogen and endocrine disruptor produced as a common industrial byproduct. It's all but impossible to avoid exposure to dioxin. Women exposed to it pass it on to fetuses in the womb, and both breast milk and formula have been shown to contain the stuff. Research done by the Environmental Working Group has shown that a nursing infant ingests an amount 77 times higher than what the EPA has proposed as safe exposure. Adults are exposed to 1,200 times more dioxin than the EPA suggests is safe, mostly through eating meat, dairy, and shellfish."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Infants Ingest 77 Times the Safe Level of Dioxin

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @08:50PM (#32894738)

    The danger from dioxin is that it is cumulative. The "safe" exposure is what is tabulted to be "not particularly harmful considering consistent exposure over a lifetime." Much like DDT in the environment building up and eventually killing birds by making eggshells too brittle to be hatched, dioxins build up in animal tissues, and accumulate in epic proportions in apex predators (like humans...)

    Dioxins are associted with increased risks for a large number of cancers, as well as with reduced fertility, and various sexual birth defects, among other things.

    WHO on Dionxin [who.int]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @09:01PM (#32894792)

    Are you aware that you have a 30% chance of getting cancer, mostly due to the level of dioxin and other carcinogens in your body? That this rate is expected to rise to 50% in the next two decades? I would consider this a reasonable description of "unsafe".

  • by aliquis ( 678370 ) <dospam@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @09:46PM (#32895026) Homepage

    Your skepticism was right.

    The risk seem to be waay higher already! [cancer.org]

  • Re:so..... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Galactic Dominator ( 944134 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @10:02PM (#32895126)

    There's no question where you'd like to be living if you are diagnosed with cancer. The question is do you want a high risk of cancer? If not, then actively ignoring evidence would not be a good strategy. Otherwise, enjoy your years with chemo, radiation and surgical procedures, I hear it's a blast. Those ventilators can give you a few more months or even years to pump up your stats. Also ignore the high child mortality rates and the AIDS epidemic which significantly alter the average life expectancy in developing countries. If you live to age 25 there and don't have AIDS in a developing country, you have a better chance of living to a ripe old age without cancer than a US citizen.

    Life expectancy with qualifications is a lot different than raw stat listing of how long the general person might live.

    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs225/en/index.html [who.int]

  • Re:Screw dioxin (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @10:04PM (#32895136)

    Triox, the now banned soil sterilizer, is chemically relate to Dioxin, AKA Agent Orange, the Cancerous defolient brought to you by out wonderful Goverment, and the nice company Monsanto, during The Vietnam war

  • Re:Screw dioxin (Score:5, Informative)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @10:21PM (#32895234) Journal

    It's the dihydrogen monoxide that's killing us.

    Why do you think I only drink distilled grain alcohol?
    God willing, we will prevail in peace and freedom from dioxins and in true health through the purity and essence of our natural fluids

  • Dioxin and fertility (Score:3, Informative)

    by fieldstone ( 985598 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @12:10AM (#32895874)

    I wrote a paper in 9th grade (13 years ago) about the effects of rising dioxin levels on human fertility statistics. If it's indeed true that human male fertility has been falling steadily since the 1930s, dioxins are most likely the reason. Because they are estrogenic and can cross the placenta, they can cause numerous other birth defects as well, including undescended testes, hypogonadism, micropenis, hermaphroditism, other intersex conditions, and gender identity disorders (if a male fetus' brain or body - but not both - develops in a typically female way because of the presence of dioxin). In mice, it produced male mice who would assume the typically female position with other males, and who were infertile.

    The continued presence of dioxins in the environment may well lead to the extinction of the human race, not now or even in 50 years, but whenever the concentration in our tissue (which increases with successive generations) is high enough that none of us are fertile anymore. Of course, by then we'll probably be able to create new people via in-vitro or cloning.

  • Fluoridation (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @12:24AM (#32895956)

    Ripper: lifts a folder off of his desk and tosses it aside, revealing a blued, pearl handled .45 automatic.

    Mandrake: Do I take it, sir, that you are threatening a brother officer with a gun?

    Ripper: Mandrake, I suppose it never occurred to you that while we're chatting here so enjoyably, a decision is being made by the President and the Joint Chiefs in the war room at the Pentagon. And when they realize there is no possibility of recalling the wing, there will be only one course of action open: total committment.

    Mandrake, do you recall what Clemenzo once said about war?

    Mandrake: No. I don't think I do sir, no.

    Ripper: He said war was to important to be left to the Generals. When he said that, fifty years ago, he might have been right. But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids. ...

    Ripper: through his cigar Mandrake,

    Mandrake: Yes, Jack?

    Ripper: Have you ever seen a commie drink a glass of water?

    Mandrake: Well, no I... I can't say I have, Jack.

    Ripper: Vodka. That's what they drink, isn't it? Never water?

    Mandrake: Well I... I believe that's what they drink, Jack. Yes.

    Ripper: On no account will a commie ever drink water, and not without good reason.

    Mandrake: Oh, ah, yes. I don't quite.. see what you're getting at, Jack.

    Ripper: Water. That's what I'm getting at. Water. Mandrake, water is the source of all life. Seven tenths of this earth's surface is water. Why, you realize that.. seventy percent of you is water.

    Mandrake: Uhhh God...

    Ripper: And as human beings, you and I need fresh, pure water to replenish our precious bodily fluids.

    Mandrake: Yes. chuckles nervously

    Ripper: You beginning to understand?

    Mandrake: Yes. chuckles. begins laughing/crying quietly

    Ripper: Mandrake. Mandrake, have you never wondered why I drink only distilled water, or rain water, and only pure grain alcohol?

    Mandrake: Well it did occur to me, Jack, yes.

    Ripper: Have you ever heard of a thing called fluoridation? Fluoridation of water?

    Mandrake: Ah, yes, I have heard of that, Jack. Yes.

    Ripper: Well do you now what it is?

    Mandrake: No. No, I don't know what it is. No.

    Ripper: Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face?

    Window in the office is shot through by automatic weapons fire. ...

    Mandrake: laughs Jack, don't you think we'd be better off in some other part of the room, away from all this flying glass?

    Ripper: Ah, naah. We're ok here. Mandrake, do you realize that in addition to fluoridated water, why, there are studies underway to fluoridate salt, flour, fruit juices, soup, sugar, milk, ice cream? Ice cream, Mandrake. Children's ice cream?

    Mandrake: Good Lord.

    Ripper: You know when fluoridation first began?

    Mandrake: No. No, I don't, Jack. No.

    Ripper: Nineteen hundred and forty six. Nineteen fortysix, Mandrake. How does that coincide with your postwar commie conspiracy, huh? It's incredibly obvious, isn't it? A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual, and certainly without any choice. That's the way your hard core commie works.

    Mandrake: Jack... Jack, listen, tell me, ah... when did you first become, well, develop this theory.

    Ripper: Well, I ah, I I first became aware of it, Mandrake, during the physical act of love.

    Mandrake: sighs fearfully

    Ripper: Yes a profound sense of fatigue, a feeling of emptiness followed. Luckily I was able to interpret these feelings correctly: loss of essence.

    Mandrake: Yes...

    Ripper: I can assure you it has not recurred, Mandrake. Women... women sense my power, and they seek the life essence. I do not avoid women, Mandrake, but I do deny them my essence.

    Mandrake: Heh heh... yes. ...

  • by simula ( 1032230 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @12:40AM (#32896040) Homepage
    I am extremely dubious that your anecdote is truthful. All the current research points to exactly the opposite of what you describe.

    The study that provides the clearest counter-example to your anecdote was on mature human males and tested the effects of soy phytoestrogens on their sex hormone levels as well as a few other factors. The result showed no negative effect:

    Because changes in sex hormones have a much greater effect on infants because they are actively developing, there have been even more studies showing that soy forumula has no negative effect to sexual development:

  • Dioxin Toxicity (Score:5, Informative)

    by WebSorcerer ( 889656 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @12:41AM (#32896046)

    I am an analytical chemist and a pioneer in the development of analytical methods to measure dioxins at extremely low levels in a wide variety of environmental and industrial matrices from 1967 through 1994 as an employee of the Dow Chemical Company. I have published many of these seminal studies in peer-reviewed scientific journals. One of these studies was the first to establish that dioxins are formed in natural processes (such as forest fires) which produces a natural background of dioxins (at very low levels) which existed before man evolved from the apes through modern times.

    As an expert in this area, I have served on an Expert Advisory Committee formed by the Canadian government to assess the impact of dioxins in that country. I was the only US citizen on the committee. The report of our findings was published by the Canadian government in 1983.

    I have presented papers of my work at American Chemical Society meetings, Annual Dioxin Conference Meetings, and sat in on early meetings of toxicologists to discuss methodology and the significance of dioxin levels found in the environment and industrial settings.

    I was an informal advisor to Italian government laboratories in Milan and Rome which analyzed for dioxins associated with the Seveso incident, advising them on how to calculate findings from raw data and how to present the data for interpretation by the toxicology community. This was during a time I was training Dow laboratory personnel in Germany to perform dioxin analyses.

    I was involved in developing methods for analyzing Agent Orange (used as a defoliant in Vietnam) for the US Government .

    With this background, I have developed informed opinions about dioxins and their hazards.

    • There are many chlorinated dioxins, but only a few are toxic; the ones with chlorine in the 2,3,7, and 8 positions.
    • If an animal is exposed to a wide range of dioxin isomers (such as fly ash from combustion), the body retains and concentrates the toxic isomers in fatty tissues. This implies that there is a receptor which binds the 2,3,7,8-dioxin isomers. This receptor has another purpose, but the dioxin molecule happens to fit.
    • The bioconcentration factor in fish is approximately 3000 (the fish end up with 3000 times more dioxin than the water they live in).
    • Dioxin acute toxicity (high single doses) is very species dependent. e.g. Mice are more sensitive than rats, and man is on the low end of the sensitivity scale.
    • Long term low level exposure produces an increased risk for some kinds of cancers, and affects the immune system.
    • All humans have a natural low level of dioxins (generally less than 1 part per trillion).

    My dioxin web site [websorcerer.com]

  • by edjs ( 1043612 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @02:31AM (#32896508)
    They're not adding them up. Multiply all the odds of not getting each cancer, and you get the odds of not getting any, which is what they've done.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @03:25AM (#32896714)

    Lifetime risk refers to the probability that an individual, over the
    course of a lifetime, will develop or die from cancer. In the US,
    men have slightly less than a 1 in 2 lifetime risk of developing
    cancer; for women, the risk is a little more than 1 in 3.

    from cancer.org on their facts and figures pdf (american cancer society)

    As for the cause, they don't speculate but 1200x the recommended maximum exposure to known cancer causing substances might be related.

  • Meat is poisonous. (Score:3, Informative)

    by delire ( 809063 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @06:27AM (#32897512)
    The link between meat and all sorts of health horrors is fairly unavoidable. Beef from the U.S is banned here in Europe as it's deemed a health risk to consume it [sustainabletable.org]:

    According to the European Union’s Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health, the use of six natural and artificial growth hormones in beef production poses a potential risk to human health.iii These six hormones include three which are naturally occurring—Oestradiol, Progesterone and Testosterone—and three which are synthetic—Zeranol, Trenbolone, and Melengestrol. The Committee also questioned whether hormone residues in the meat of "growth enhanced" animals and can disrupt human hormone balance, causing developmental problems, interfering with the reproductive system, and even leading to the development of breast, prostate or colon cancer.iv

    Hormone imbalances are also a problem [preventcancer.com]:

    Diethylstilbestrol (DES) was one of the first hormones used to fatten feedlots. It was banned in 1979 after forty years of evidence that DES was cancer-causing. In its place, sex hormones, such as estradiol and progestins (synthetic forms of the naturally occurring hormone progesterone) have been implanted to virtually all feedlot cattle. The least hazardous way to administer hormones to animals is through an implant near the animals ear. Unfortunately, many farmers inject hormones directly into the muscle tissue that will be later used to make meat products. The only USDA-imposed requirement is that residue levels in meat must be less than one percent of the daily hormone production of children. This requirement is unenforceable because there is no USDA testing for hormone residues in meat. Furthermore, hormonal residues are not practically differentiable from natural hormones created by the cow's body. As a result, the use of hormones to boost meat production is completely unregulated.

    Moreso, the impact of all this extra estrogen [preventcancer.com] is having on people (especially men) is particularly worrying. Maybe meat is making today's boys a little soft.

    The amount of estradiol in two hamburgers eaten in one day by an 8-year-old boy could increase his total hormone levels by as much as 10%, based on conservative assumptions, because young children have very low natural hormone levels. In real life, the situation may be much worse. An unpublicized random USDA survey of 32 large feedlots found that as many as half the cattle had visible illegal "misplaced implants" in muscle, rather than under ear skin. This would result in very high local concentrations of hormones, and also elevated levels in muscle meat at distant sites. Such abuse is very hard to detect.

    Given that a tiny proportion of cows actually slaughtered for sale of their parts have actually eaten grass in their lives, they are also full of all sorts of pesticides, dioxins in the fatty tissue being one particularly nasty result. These mutants don't eat eat grass [time.com], as their ancestors have, but corn, soya beans and oats. 70% of all grains grown in the U.S are fed to animals to turn into tissue which is then eaten. A highly inefficient and environmentally costly source of proteins.

    Like it or not, any non-grass-grown meat is pretty much poisonous. Sadly grass grown meat is such a tiny proportion of meat eaten as it's just not a market-competitive means of production. It's all hormones, antibiotics and a high protein diet for the animals that are eaten these days. Any vet will tell you we're eating very sick beasts.

    Even we Europeans are not safe - most of the meat eaten here is raised on imported grains. Farmers have a practice of putting a f

  • by sourcerror ( 1718066 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @07:06AM (#32897750)

    P.S.: where's your cite for brain cells thriving in high blood sugar conditions?

    Well, it's kindof asking for citation of the Earth being round, but here you go (copied ungracefully from the Glucose article on Wikipedia):

    ^ Fairclough, Stephen H.; Houston, Kim (2004), "A metabolic measure of mental effort", Biol. Psychol. 66 (2): 177–90, doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2003.10.001, PMID 15041139.
    ^ Gailliot, Matthew T.; Baumeister, Roy F.; DeWall, C. Nathan; Plant, E. Ashby; Brewer, Lauren E.; Schmeichel, Brandon J.; Tice, Dianne M.; Maner, Jon K. (2007), "Self-Control Relies on Glucose as a Limited Energy Source: Willpower is More than a Metaphor", J. Personal. Soc. Psychol. 92 (2): 325–36, doi:10.1037/0022-3514.92.2.325, PMID 17279852.
    ^ Gailliot, Matthew T.; Baumeister, Roy F. (2007), "The Physiology of Willpower: Linking Blood Glucose to Self-Control", Personal. Soc. Psychol. Rev. 11 (4): 303–27, doi:10.1177/1088868307303030, PMID 18453466.
    ^ Masicampo, E. J.; Baumeister, Roy F. (2008), "Toward a Physiology of Dual-Process Reasoning and Judgment: Lemonade, Willpower, and Expensive Rule-Based Analysis", Psychol. Sci. 19 (3): 255–60, doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02077.x, PMID 18315798.

    Oh, and last, but not least, life expectancy is a near meaningless statistic. It has more to do with childhood mortality than the ages adults lasted to.

    Well, then show how long their adults lived.

  • by Silentknyght ( 1042778 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @08:51AM (#32898594)

    So, couldn't you, uh, just not eat those things?

    Dioxins/furans are a byproduct of fuel combustion, especially notable in municipal solid waste combustors and/or incinerators, where the "fuel" source may harbor additional precursors (chlorine atoms). Dioxins don't just "appear" in meat, dairy, and shellfish; they are ingested at the lowest levels of the food chain and bioaccumulate. That does not mean, however, that dioxins/furans are absent from the air you breathe or the soil in which your plans grow... they're there, else how'd they get into the food chain?

    An additional fun fact: based on some evidence I've been able to turn up, chlorine is much more prevalent in biomass-based, renewable fuels compared with coal, oil, or natural gas. Also, I am an environmental scientist.

  • Re:Dioxin Toxicity (Score:5, Informative)

    by WebSorcerer ( 889656 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:15AM (#32899960)

    Since man (and every other animal) has had dioxin in their system at very low levels during their evolution, these low levels are natural to the species. However, the ambient levels of dioxin have risen in recent time due to the activities of man, in most part due to combustion processes. No studies that I know of have addressed whether this has had a deleterious effect and if so, to what extent. Common sense, however, tells me that it probably is not a good thing.

    To reduce ambient levels would require either curtailing man-made combustion, or treating all man-made combustion products before they are emitted. I don't think this is a possibility in the near future. However, the efforts to curtail global warming are a step in the right direction, IMHO.

    Fortunately, plants to not take up dioxins. I was involved in an early study to determine this. We synthesized radiolabeled tetrachlorodioxin for the US Department of Agriculture for use in a study they did on uptake of dioxins in several plants. Since the analytical methods did not exist at that time to chemically determine dioxins at low levels, they could track the radioactivity to find the answer. They found that corn kernels, for example, contained no detectable dioxin. Root plants, however, had dioxin on the surface of the roots which could be washed off. My advice is to thoroughly wash root vegetables before eating.

    Since animals bio-concentrate dioxins they are exposed to, limiting certain of these in the diet would be beneficial. Fish live in water which contains dioxins at very low levels. Their bodies trap a portion of them in their fatty tissues raising the level in their bodies about a factor of 3000. This takes time. Fish which are long-lived in general contain higher levels of dioxin. The US government has advisories on certain waterways against eating more than a specified number of fish per month. Also, large game fish likely have higher levels. Plant-eating animals are not exposed to equivalent levels of dioxin.

    There have been several incidences of animals being contaminated with dioxins due to contaminated food. One incident mentioned in the comments above was chicken found to be contaminated with dioxin during a routine food analysis supermarket survey by the US government. The source of the contamination was due to the presence of contaminated clay which is put in the food to facilitate its ability to flow easily in the machinery which transfers it (usually via augers) from place to place during the feed's manufacture.

    I was involved as a consultant to a Houston law firm in the litigation surrounding this incident. The clay contamination was of natural origin. Clay is made during the deposition of silt in lakes. It is thus stratified and can act as a 'time machine' for determining substances in the water at the time of the deposit by analyzing core samples. The deeper the sample, the older it is, and the time period can be back to prehistoric ages. The pattern of dioxins in the clay, mined from a depth of about 30 feet, was unusual. It did not match any known source.

    It was found that a species of algae could manufacture dioxins. The algae were deposited, along with the silt, in a layer 30 feet below the top of the clay deposit. Since the contamination was of natural origin, and the possibility that clay could be contaminated in this way was was unknown, there was no culpable party, and the law suits evaporated. We are fortunate that our government had the foresight to monitor the food we eat for dioxin contamination.

    Personally, I do not worry about dioxins in my diet. Man has evolved in the presence of dioxins and can handle the 'normal' exposure encountered in his daily life. What the government study is trying to do is to determine the level of concern for unusual exposure to dioxins. This, in turn, allows them to control the populace's exposure to dangerous levels of dioxins.

    I hope this answers your questions.

    If you want daily updates about dioxins try Google News [google.com]

"More software projects have gone awry for lack of calendar time than for all other causes combined." -- Fred Brooks, Jr., _The Mythical Man Month_