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Dioxin Pollution Essay, Research Paper

Dioxin is one of the most toxic chemicals known.

A report released for public comment in

September 1994 by the US Environmental

Protection Agency clearly describes dioxin as a

serious public health threat. The public health

impact of dioxin may rival the impact that DDT

had on public health in the 1960’s. According to

the EPA report, not only does there appear to be

no "safe" level of exposure to dioxin, but levels of

dioxin and dioxin-like chemicals have been found

in the general US population that are "at or near

levels associated with adverse health effects." The

EPA report confirmed that dioxin is a cancer

hazard to people; that exposure to dioxin can also

cause severe reproductive and developmental

problems (at levels 100 times lower than those

associated with its cancer causing effects); and

that dioxin can cause immune system damage and

interfere with regulatory hormones.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer

[IARC] –part of the World Health Organization

–announced February 14, 1997, that the most

potent dioxin, 2,3,7,8-TCDD, is a now

considered a Class 1 carcinogen, meaning a

"known human carcinogen."

Dioxin is a general term that describes a group of

hundreds of chemicals that are highly persistent in

the environment. The most toxic compound is

2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin or TCDD.

The toxicity of other dioxins and chemicals like

PCBs that act like dioxin are measured in relation

to TCDD. Dioxin is formed as an unintentional

by-product of many industrial processes involving

chlorine such as waste incineration, chemical and

pesticide manufacturing and pulp and paper

bleaching. Dioxin was the primary toxic

component of Agent Orange, was found at Love

Canal in Niagara Falls, NY.


The major sources of dioxin are in our diet. Since

dioxin is fat-soluble, it bioaccumulates up the food

chain and it is mainly (97.5%) found in meat and

dairy products (beef, dairy products, milk,

chicken, pork, fish and eggs in that order… see

chart below). In fish alone, these toxins

bioaccumulate up the food chain so that dioxin

levels in fish are 100,000 times that of the

surrounding environment. The most conspicuous

source of dioxin pollution is from paper mills which

may pollute nearby streams with wastewater. Fish

living downstream from paper processing plants

have been found to contain significant amounts of

dioxin in their tissues.

In EPA’s dioxin report, they refer to dioxin as

hydrophobic. This means that dioxin, when it

settles on water bodies, will avoid the water and

find a fish to go in to. The same goes for other

wildlife. Dioxin will find animals to go in to,

working its way to the top of the food chain.

Dioxin has been know to cause cancer in many

different cases such as in explosion at a

Hoffman-LaRoche chemical plant in Seveso, Italy,

in 1976. People did not have any signs of cancer

at first. So everyone said look at Seveso dioxin

does not cause cancer. Now a new study in the

journal EPIDEMIOLOGY reveals that people

exposed to dioxin during the Seveso explosion

have begun to exhibit excessive numbers of cancer

cases. Dr. Linda Birnbaum, director of

environmental toxicology for U.S. EPA now says

that this case is just another strike against dioxin.

The area around Seveso has been divided into

three zones, called A, B and R. The small A zone

was most heavily contaminated, but its 724

residents were evacuated. ("Heavy" contamination

means that each square yard of land contained 13

to 494 micrograms of dioxin; a microgram is a

millionth of a gram and there are 28 grams in an

ounce.) The B zone was less heavily contaminated

but its 4824 residents were not evacuated; zone B

contained 43 micrograms of dioxin per square

yard of soil, or less. The R zone was even less

contaminated (average contamination being 4.3

micrograms per square yard), so its 31,647

residents were probably exposed to low levels.

Another 181,579 people living beyond zone R

serve as a control group living in

"noncontaminated" areas. The greatest cancer

increase has occurred in zone B. In zone A the

numbers are small and no significant cancer

increases have occurred. In zone R one kind of

cancer has increased: soft tissue sarcoma.

Previous studies have linked dioxin exposure to

soft tissue sarcoma in humans.

In zone B, among women there has been an

observable increase in cancers of the gall bladder

and bilary tract (the system that delivers bile from

the liver to the small intestine), and in cancers

related to the blood-forming system (multiple

myeloma and myeloid leukemia). Among men in

zone B, there were observable increases in

cancers of the blood-forming system, and in one

kind of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (a cancer of the

lymph system called lymphoreticulosarcoma). This

new study only covers the period 1976 through

1986–10 years after the Seveso accident. Since

most cancers take longer than 10 years to

develop, the cancers reported in this study may

represent only the earliest signs of more trouble to


During routine preparation of a REPORT TO


Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has

learned that cement and cement kiln dust contain

dioxins and furans (both of which are powerful

poisons in animals and humans). Cement is a

principal component of pipe often used to

distribute drinking water in many American cities.

Cement kiln dust is a byproduct of cement

manufacture and is routinely given or sold to

farmers as a soil treatment, or is discarded into

pits or is piled on the ground near cement kilns in

an uncontrolled fashion.

Many U.S. soldiers came in contact with dioxin

when it was used in the Vietnam War as a

defoliant under the name of Agent Orange. Now

many of these soldiers are showing signs of or

have cancer. Many of these soldiers have passed

on this dioxin poisoning to their children. For

years, Vietnam Veterans have claimed that their

exposure to Agent Orange has resulted in illness

and death. The United States government and the

Veterans Administration has consistently taken the

position that adequate information does not exist

to demonstrate a relationship with Vietnam

service, Agent Orange exposure and any illness or


In conclusion I feel that dioxins are very harmful

and not needed in society today. I also feel that

more steps need to be taken towards getting rid of

dioxins and monitoring where illness related to

dioxins are located. I also feel that many of the

men in the Vietnam War are getting sick and dying

as a result of dioxins that were used in Agent

Orange. The EPA should make sure that dioxin

levels are to high in any one area.

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