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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."
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Infants Ingest 77 Times the Safe Level of Dioxin

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  • by by (1706743) ( 1706744 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @08:37PM (#32894666)
    It's the dihydrogen monoxide [] that's killing us.
  • Great (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kenoli ( 934612 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @08:39PM (#32894674)
    But what exactly is accomplished by reviewing the safe exposure limit? Apparently it's unavoidable and is already consumed in orders of magnitude higher levels than is recommended.
    • Re:Great (Score:5, Funny)

      by oldspewey ( 1303305 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @09:04PM (#32894810)
      But if they change the formula for calculating safe dosages, they can show fewer bars on the display and people will at least feel better about their dioxin exposure.
    • by XSpud ( 801834 )
      Though dioxins are currently ubiquitous much of the dioxin level in the environment is a result of man's activities e.g. paper-making, pesticides etc, so in theory could be reduced.
    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      I'm not sure "it" is the right word. As far as I understand, "dioxin" isn't a poison, but a group of chemicals with widely varying toxicity.
      So "77 times the safe level of dioxin" isn't more meaningful than "77 times the safe level of metals".

    • Re:Great (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @10:23PM (#32895244) Journal
      The safe exposure limit has two major uses:

      One, it directly informs industrial hygiene standards for workers exposed to it on the job. OSHA recommendations/requirements will(possibly some decades after the fact, The Business of America is Business(tm) after all) reflect the levels of exposure that are permissible, given the expected health effects.

      Two, it informs environmental regulations related to the discharge of the chemicals in question. Dioxins are only "unavoidable" today because their release has historically been alarmingly close to unregulated, and they are fairly persistent little critters. If the safe exposure limit is revised downward, acceptable release limits will(again, possibly with substantial lag, nobody wants to make the American Chemistry Council [] cry) will be revised downward, so that, as the compounds eventually are degraded or encapsulated, exposures will fall.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by russotto ( 537200 )

        Two, it informs environmental regulations related to the discharge of the chemicals in question. Dioxins are only "unavoidable" today because their release has historically been alarmingly close to unregulated, and they are fairly persistent little critters. If the safe exposure limit is revised downward, acceptable release limits will(again, possibly with substantial lag, nobody wants to make the American Chemistry Council cry) will be revised downward, so that, as the compounds eventually are degraded or

  • so..... (Score:2, Insightful)

    wouldnt this mean its safe to ingest more than the reported levels? That's not necessarily a good thing, but it does take a bit of the sensationalism out of the story
    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      No, it means that you're much more likely to die from cancer than if you were able to avoid dioxin.

    • wouldnt this mean its safe to ingest more than the reported levels?

      Clearly, if our babies are ingesting 1200 times the safe amount of dioxin, the most reasonable solution is to simply raise the level which is considered safe.

      It's kind of like bars on a cell phone, I guess.

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      There is some level where consumption above that level increases the chances of cancer in a statistically significant manner. That isn't a sentence of death by cancer, but an increased chance. That level of proof of increased chance of cancer is low. And so people consume much more than "safe" and still don't get problems. Like all the smokers that live to be old. That doesn't mean smoking is safe.
  • by LordKronos ( 470910 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @08:40PM (#32894682)

    It seems to me that if adults typically are exposed to 1200 times what is considered a safe level, then either every adult should be seriously ill from exposure, or the EPA standard for what is a safe level is a bit unreasonable.

    • Actually, neither necessarily needs to be true. For the EPA standard, it could simply be unreasonable in the way of being unrealistic. For the massive exposure, long term effects and general decrease in life expectancy and resistance to other health issues could be the result when it's not health issues directly caused by exposure. Remember, an LD 50 is what kills 50% of a population. Safe exposure levels similarly don't translate directly to "shit's gonna go down like this for every person."

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It also depends on what you're calling "unsafe". We can call juggling hammers "unsafe" (you may drop one and bruise your toe), but we'd also call juggling thermonuclear warhead "unsafe" as well. The threshold for "chronic exposure causes a minor increase in the risk of a particular form of cancer" will be vastly different from "causes instantaneous death upon ingestion". My guess the level referred to in the 1200 times figure is the lowest level at which any sort of adverse health effect has been shown (w

      • by cgenman ( 325138 )

        It could also be that the EPA felt the need to be dramatic in order to reach a compromise position with congress. We may very well have extra hundreds of thousands of unnecessary cancers a year due to Dioxin exposure. And maybe if they say 1200 times, they'll get from congress a bill that is just 400 times. If they had said 400 times, they might have gotten 100 times. Of course, they've been trying to get this stuff banned since the 70's, unsuccessfully. Maybe now they have a chance.

        Or it could be that

      • by grcumb ( 781340 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @03:04AM (#32896634) Homepage Journal

        That said, I agree that the "1200 times safe levels" quote is fear-mongering. Humans are notoriously bad at judging relative risk (see the Bad Science blog for more).

        From the WHO site []:

        • Dioxins are a group of chemically-related compounds that are persistent environmental pollutants.
        • Dioxins are found throughout the world in the environment and they accumulate in the food chain, mainly in the fatty tissue of animals.
        • More than 90% of human exposure is through food, mainly meat and dairy products, fish and shellfish. Many national authorities have programmes in place to monitor the food supply.
        • Dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer.
        • Due to the omnipresence of dioxins, all people have background exposure, which is not expected to affect human health. However, due to the highly toxic potential of this class of compounds, efforts need to be undertaken to reduce current background exposure.
        • Prevention or reduction of human exposure is best done via source-directed measures, i.e. strict control of industrial processes to reduce formation of dioxins as much as possible.

        In short, dioxins' real danger is not increased cancer risk in the population that ingests it directly. It's the mutagenic risk to our offspring. In layman's terms, you're not going to die of cancer, but your child might be born with a genetic defect that affects their ability to thrive - or maybe even to survive.

        A 'safe' dose is therefore difficult to quantify, because we won't know for sure what the impact will be after (for example) 3 generations of exposure at a given level. More to the point, we don't want to find out by waiting to see if our predictions were right. In cases like this, the precautionary principle is by far the better choice.

        That's difficult to apply, however, because dioxins are persistent chemicals; they accumulate in the food chain and don't disperse easily. Arguably, there is no such thing as a 'safe' level, because with the passage of time even small annual increments become very large numbers.

        As with climate change, decisions deriving from the scientific findings will be largely informed by the moral/ethical/philosophical stance of the policy-makers. The same data set looks very different if you're looking at the problem in terms of the next electoral cycle, as opposed to the next generation.

    • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @09:03PM (#32894804) Homepage Journal

      Not necessarily. It depends on how "safe" is defined. If "unsafe" means that you can expect a statistically measurable drop in life expectancy and measurable increase in related illnesses over a lifetime of exposure (ie: pretty much the same case as you have for smoking-related illnesses), then you would not necessarily have an obviously sick population even though said population was, indeed, sick - merely not sick enough for it to be visible at that time.

      Lifetime exposure is one factor. Yearly exposure and daily exposure are other measures. I don't know exactly which of these the 1200x refers to. It matters. It matters a lot. You can't simply assume that exposure is utterly uniform and devoid of any fluctuation, nor can you assume that accumulation is also uniform and devoid of any fluctuation. Thus, the 1200x may well be an average that never actually happens, but where you are very likely to get millions of times safe levels for brief periods of times at intervals in your life. Or it might be that 1200x is the maximum value that the fluctuations are likely to reach, or it might be the root-mean-square value of the fluctuating values, or any number of other things. The summary is useless (as usual) in understanding what the numbers mean.

      Or maybe 1200x is not actually the exposure level at all, but rather the peak value observed for bodily accumulation of the toxin. Or the average. Or the root-mean-square. Or some other statistical value.

      Regardless, the EPA is usually wildly optimistic - the EU generally permits levels only half the EPA estimates of what is safe, and the value is generally much closer to the value considered sensible by environmental chemists and inorganic biochemists. Both the EPA and EU values are usually also much lower than the values industry will stomach, with the result that either the law is widely flouted (since jobs = votes and nobody is stupid enough to vote themselves out of office by risking jobs through environmental crackdowns) or the law is widely bypassed by moving the most polluting component(s) to places like Bhopal, where the people are too poor or too dead to complain.

      (I don't know what the solution is, but since a company pays for whatever it wastes, it would seem to follow that the less you waste the more you make.)

      • by Bruha ( 412869 )

        We'll multiply that by 6 billion people it's probably very costly.

        What I want to know, is what the frack can we eat? Is this an issue with industrial cows being fed corn, or is it also a problem with range fed animals and wild fish. I could understand how it's probably impossible to find fish in water that's not polluted to hell and back and I can deal with that, but I need meat and potatoes.

    • It seems to me that if adults typically are exposed to 1200 times what is considered a safe level, then either every adult should be seriously ill from exposure, or the EPA standard for what is a safe level is a bit unreasonable.

      Or we'd all be a lot healthier if we weren't exposed to as much dioxin.

  • by CajunArson ( 465943 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @08:45PM (#32894706) Journal

    How about... 5 fun things you can do with your baby's placenta []!!?!?!?!?!? (from the same site as this "article"). I suppose any excuse to beat up on "evil industry" will always fly on Slashdot.
        Next thing you know there'll be the usual litany of +5 insightfuls about how "big media" (led by Catie Couric) regularly pumps out pro-insecticide propaganda. No I'm not joking.. the regular scare pieces about anything that might be remotely toxic are the product of "big pesticide" to bore us to death with obviously untrue hysteria so that we accidentally let them get away with poisoning all of us!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CajunArson ( 465943 )

      I suppose any excuse to beat up on "evil industry" will always fly on Slashdot.

      Yeah.. and while I was going to say that only a sensationalist troll like KDawson would post this, I didn't want to since I hadn't checked the byline before the last post... then I went and checked it... You see kids, sometimes prejudice is just a more efficient way of arriving at the same conclusion that carefully deliberation would lead to, and it's more fun!

      Please KDawson, go back to parroting what the DailyKos tells you to th

      • by Lotana ( 842533 )

        Well looking at the frontpage, it looks like nearly every single article submission is by KDawson. Does /. even have other editors?

  • by Man On Pink Corner ( 1089867 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @08:53PM (#32894750)

    ... if the official dioxin-exposure limits are set unreasonably low, perhaps for political reasons unrelated to human or animal health.

    • by c0lo ( 1497653 )
      Yeap. As the wars on terror/drugs lose momentum, there need to be something else to keep us scared and forget about Net Neutrality, Gulf spill, health care (whatever).
      Long leave "War on Dioxin".
      • by Improv ( 2467 )

        The world is a complex place. If your threshold for "OMG they want to control us" is someone warning you that something is probably unhealthy, you'll have conspiracy theories from cradle to grave.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Make me wonder why so many people I know have had cancer,
      but you could assume that because it is a slow painful to go through, painful to watch for others death, that it is safe.

      Mod me +5 more insightful than the other guy please.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @09:20PM (#32894914)

      "Nine animal studies conducted between 1973 and 2008 show that dioxin is harmful at levels even lower than in the human studies on which EPA based its proposal. Those human studies, conducted in 2008, explored the toxic legacy of a 1976 chemical plant explosion in Seveso, Italy, which exposed thousands of people to dioxin in unprecedented intensity and left large quantities of the chemical in the soil." source:

      of course ... those studies could have all been flawed ... but ... it's a much more likely possibility that the cancer all the people you know that have cancer comes from something related to their lifetime of high exposures to environmental pollutants.

      • by khallow ( 566160 )

        "Nine animal studies conducted between 1973 and 2008 show that dioxin is harmful at levels even lower than in the human studies on which EPA based its proposal. Those human studies, conducted in 2008, explored the toxic legacy of a 1976 chemical plant explosion in Seveso, Italy, which exposed thousands of people to dioxin in unprecedented intensity and left large quantities of the chemical in the soil." source: []

        This is the same group that claims that adult humans have a life time exposure of 1200 times the EPA level. That is that the average person in the US is exposed to levels of dioxin three orders of magnitude greater than the amount supposedly required to cause observable harm in studies, which in turn, if true, is likely to be significant in itself (due to low population sample). My take is that these conflicting claims made by the Environmental Working Group are probably all bullshit. It's probably an attem

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Solandri ( 704621 )

        "Nine animal studies conducted between 1973 and 2008 show that dioxin is harmful at levels even lower than in the human studies on which EPA based its proposal.

        I have to think there were a helluva lot more than 9 studies on the toxicity of dioxin done between 1973-2008, especially in the aftermath of the Times Beach fiasco []. That makes me suspect those 9 studies were cherry-picked because they got the results the site wanted. Does someone know of a metastudy which collates the results of all dioxin studi

        • by Lehk228 ( 705449 )
          "all" studies isn't a good measure either, how many of those studies were funded by organizations releasing dioxins into the environment, a breakdown would need to be done by funding as well, to determine if there was a significant deviation of results based on who paid for the study, much how big tobacco funded studies to show their product was harmless, and the same lobbying groups today tell us that first G.W. did not exist, then that it wasn't caused by human activity, then that even if it were caused b
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      They are usually set to be open ended. The US just does not define safety levels for certain harmful substances, ie no laws, upper limits.
      If something goes wrong, laws, lawyers and recalls after the fact.
      People seem happy to pay less, spin the cancer wheel and enjoy food freedom.
      Any numbers, tests, data, long term studies are a real risk to “manufacturing” costs. A persons death at home or in a hospital at a younger age is just not part of the math.
    • by Cedric Tsui ( 890887 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @09:31PM (#32894952)
      I don't think so.
      This is a common problem in terms of safety standards. Toxicity of a substance is very hard to quantify. It's easy to take a group of lab rats and see what dosage kills half of them. But what does that say about how tiny amounts of the substance will affect your lifetime chance of developing cancer? Usually, you cant say anything!

      If it can't be quantified, then you assume the worst case scenario. I know that when it comes to radiation, we call this the 'linear, no threshold' (LNT) model. If x amount will bring you 50% of the way to death, then x/500 will bring you 0.1% of the way to death. There is no safety threshold, which means that we assume that any ingested amount no matter how small does damage.

      Now, the LNT model is pretty much never correct. At least, I've never seen an example where it has held. One example: Swallowing two pounds of vitamin C should kill me based on the LD50 for rats. If we were to apply the LNT model, we'd conclude that vitamin C is toxic and I shouldn't ingest any if I can help it. It's this kind of reasoning why lexan bottles are no longer covering the shelves. Some scientist measured 6-20 parts per billion of BPA in the water contained in one of these bottles.

      Does that mean the EPA is unreasonably over protective? Yes. Do I want them to change? ABSOLUTELY NOT! In this case, as in the case for radiation, and for BPA, pseudo estrogen, mercury, etc.., is that we can not prove that exposure to these quantities is safe, and we have reason to believe that they are not. They do not need to be proven dangerous to be banned. They need to be proven safe to NOT be banned.
    • Umm... Because some politician decided that going up against the lobbying might of the American Chemistry Council(including their Chlorine group, which can churn out every-so-touching PSAs about how chlorine is what keeps your childrens' drinking water safe with extreme efficiency), the pulp and paper industries(and their customers, the newspapers, who definitely have no effect on public opinion), and American farmers, who have both a fondness for herbicides and a nearly unbeatable stock of political capita
  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @08:57PM (#32894772)
    That settles it. Feed the kid formula and leave the tit for daddy.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @09:28PM (#32894934)

    here's the EWR's press release []

    Environmental Working Group's dioxin timeline, complete with citations []

    I'm a vegan, politcally I'm a progressive (let the flaming begin), and even I was disgusted with the "article" linked in TFS. Piss poor choice dudes, as you easily could have linked to the EWR's press release and allowed the discussion to go from there. But instead we start with a shit "article" from an alarmist site, which stokes an immediate onslaught of comments that outright dismiss even a _possibility_ that dioxin is harmful to humans.

    In my 12 years of hanging around here, I sure do miss the days when we'd have a discussion based on the SCIENCE of whether or not dioxin is worthy of our concern

    • I've been watching this site for that long and I don't remember a time when most of these discussions were much more than flame wars with made up statistics, dubious assertions and ad hominem on both sides.

      I do agree that it's gotten worse in recent years, though.

  • White Cardboard. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stimpleton ( 732392 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @09:30PM (#32894946)
    About 10 years ago, in my country(outside the US), they found the greatest levels came from the insides of milk containers(the cardboard ones). For consumer perception reasons, the inside should be snow white, not brown. The whitening process was a bleach based one and the chemical contained dioxin. Apparently, a chlorine based oxidation whitening method is safe. But of course, more costly. How are your cardboard products whitened? Don't assume in this day and age its the safe method.
    • I get my milk in a plastic jug.
    • About 10 years ago, in my country(outside the US), they found the greatest levels came from the insides of milk containers(the cardboard ones). For consumer perception reasons, the inside should be snow white, not brown. The whitening process was a bleach based one and the chemical contained dioxin. Apparently, a chlorine based oxidation whitening method is safe. But of course, more costly.

      Bleach (NaClO) is a Chlorine based chemical. Could you expand on exactly how Bleach was the problem or the difference between the two?

    • Re:White Cardboard. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @10:11PM (#32895176) Journal
      "Bleach" is usually Sodium Hypochlorite, in water solution. Historically, both Sodium Hypochlorite and elemental Chlorine, among others, would have been used at various stages of the pulp bleaching process. Unfortunately, a number of organochlorine compounds are pretty nasty customers(dioxins hog the stage time; but furans, PCBs, and others are also not exactly tasty treats), and using Chlorine to attack wood pulp, full of various organic compounds, produces nice white wood pulp, and a bunch of organochlorine compounds(even if the cardboard isn't going into food packaging, these tend to end up going more or less straight into the river).

      The almost-as-cheap-and-somewhat-less-dangerous method substitutes chlorine dioxide for straight chlorine. Apparently, this reduces the amount of exciting organochlorines in the result.

      The more costly; but chlorine free, technique involves Ozone(the same applies in water treatment plants). The nice thing about Ozone is that it is pretty close to Chlorine in terms of being a vociferous oxidizing and bleaching agent that is soluble in water; but that it consists entirely of oxygen atoms, and is fairly unstable. This means that you can have a ghastly disinfecting or bleaching agent that, after 24-48 hours of sitting around, is pretty much just plain water with dissolved oxygen.

      The chlorine-free methods are particularly popular in Europe, and they've reduced the output of Chlorinated nasties pretty much everywhere; but the odds are still pretty good that, unless specifically stated otherwise and in the EU, your white paper is white because of a chlorine process.
  • I may not agree on everything this man said, and hell he wouldn't want me to. But he sure did nail some things right:
    Fear of Germs []

    Where did this sudden fear of germs come from in this country? Have you noticed this? The media constantly running stories about all the latest infections? Salmonella, E-coli, hanta virus, bird flu, and Americans will panic easily so everybody's running around scrubbing this and spraying that and overcooking their food and repeatedly washing their hands, trying to avoid all contact with germs. It's ridiculous and it goes to ridiculous lengths.

    In prisons, before they give you lethal injection, they swab your arm with ALCOHOL. Wouldn't want some guy to go to hell AND be sick. Fear of germs, why these fuckin' pussies. You can't even get a decent hamburger anymore they cook the shit out of everything now 'cause everyone's afraid of FOOD POISONING! Hey, wheres you sense of adventure? Take a fuckin' chance will you? Hey you know how many people die of food poisoning in this country? Nine thousand, thats all, its a minor risk.

    Take a fuckin' chance bunch of goddamn pussies. Besides, what d'ya think you have an immune system for? It's for killing germs! But it needs practice, it needs germs to practice on. So if you kill all the germs around you, and live a completely sterile life, then when germs do come along, you're not gonna be prepared. And never mind ordinary germs, what are you gonna do when some super virus comes along that turns your vital organs into liquid shit?! I'll tell you what your gonna do ... you're gonna get sick. You're gonna die and your gonna deserve it because you're fucking weak and you got a fuckin' weak immune system!

    Let me tell you a true story about immunization ok. When I was a little boy in New York city in the nineteen-forties, we swam in the Hudson river. And it was filled with raw sewage! OK? We swam in raw sewage, you know, to cool off. And at that time the big fear was polio. Thousands of kids died from polio every year. But you know something? In my neighborhood no one ever got polio. No one! EVER! You know why? Cause WE SWAM IN RAW SEWAGE! It strengthened our immune system, the polio never had a prayer. We were tempered in raw shit!
    George Carlin

    Disclaimer: I trusted Google on getting a "reliable" quote, I read most of it, but the typos made me twitch too

    • Carlin's exactly fuckin' right. I love going home and watching my family methodically wash and scrub their hands before every meal, every trip to the bathroom, etc. You know, got the hand sanitizer EVERYWHERE. I don't wash my hands before I eat, why the hell would I wash my hands in the bathroom if I didn't, well, shit all over myself? When I clean my apartment, I use soap and water, no ultra-bleach-sanitization, unless it's the stank-ass trashcan or I left the dishes go WAY too long.

      I haven't barely had a

      • Yes...Lysol products, you bring up a good point. Who is to say those are any safer than half the "chemicals" everywhere. Just because it isn't something I eat doesn't mean its gonna kill my ass. And at the same time, if people really think that they can "stay ahead" of all the germs in their house, now that is hilarious.

        In truth I imagine Dioxin is just like anything else, sure you can put up with a lot, but generally speaking too much of one thing usually isn't good for you. (Unless of course it is Sla

  • It sounds like the EPA pulled the "safe level" out of their asses. If it was as dangerous as our bureaucrat overlords claim, babies should instantly burst into cancerous blobs of puss...yet longevity is longer than ever and more humans than ever live longer and healthier lives.

    Good thing the Almighty State is there to get our backs (wink,wink) -- if we could only be more thankful by letting them tax us more and more.

    • by Improv ( 2467 )

      Perhaps you should take a look at these studies and consider that they're there to protect you. There's a lot of room for hazards that are long-term unhealthy or risky that won't create dramatic, visible dangers, and given how artificial our modern environment is, it's prudent to enter it with eyes open and people using oars to help steer us from the worst of what hazards we can predict.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vvaduva ( 859950 )

        Maybe you are right, but anymore it's hard to trust anything coming out from government employees. I grew up in Eastern Europe where a clean environment wasn't anywhere on the list of the kids we used to break up thermometers and play with the mercury inside for days. Melting led into our own molds to make toys was something we loved doing. Bottom line is that while education helps, there are hazards all around us with the media and the State constantly scaring the hell out of us with everyt

        • by Improv ( 2467 )

          No, they stay employed because they're either required by our system of government, or because they work for agencies creatable and destroyable by our system of government. Many of us see all this testing a being a very good thing. There are probably people who don't understand/care, and probably people who see it as bad or useless and want it stopped.

          It's your choice on how to react to this. They're not "scaring the hell out of me", although if they decide these things are unhealthy, I have a certain amoun

    • by Lehk228 ( 705449 )
      because the free market works so well with toxic releases, just ask the residents of Bhopal
  • by nura78 ( 757740 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @10:14PM (#32895194)
    Courtesy of Yes, Minister:

    Concerned woman: Listen, I've heard that this factory will be making the chemical that poisoned Seveso.
    Jim Hacker: Now that's not true. The chemical in Seveso was dioxin. This is metadioxin.
    Woman: Well that must be virtually the same thing.
    Hacker: No, it's just a similar name.
    Woman: It's the same name, only with 'meta' stuck on the front.
    Hacker: And that makes all the difference.
    Woman: Why, what does 'meta' mean?
    Hacker: (baffled) What does 'meta' mean, Humphrey?
    Sir Humphrey: It's quite simple. It means 'with' or 'after', sometimes 'beyond'. It's from the Greek. In other words, with or after dioxin, sometimes beyond dioxin. It depends whether it's the accusative or the genitive. With the accusative it's beyond or after, with the genitive it's with. As in Latin, of course, as you no doubt obviously recall, where the ablative is used for words needing a sense of 'with' to preceed them.
    Bernard: But of course there isn't an ablative in Greek, is there Sir Humphrey?
    Sir Humphrey: Well done, Bernard, well done.
    Hacker: You see?
    Woman: Not really, no.
  • Is it a binary thing? 1200x dioxin maybe no worse than >1x dioxin? Once you get >1x dioxin, maybe you can swim in the stuff and not have any worse chance of cancer? It's certainly not 1200x worse...
  • Whew! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Narcocide ( 102829 )

    Thank God it's not in the liquor.

  • 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.

  • 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 []

  • 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 []:

    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 []:

    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 [] 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 [], 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

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Organic, grass-fed beef is available where most of us live. We just choose to buy cheaper beef because we'd rather eat poo and buy a 50" flat-screen TV than eat healthy food and watch American Idol on some old 19" CRT.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"