Dioxins and furans are some of the most toxic chemicals known to science. A draft 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."
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 is formed by burning chlorine-based chemical compounds with hydrocarbons. The major source of dioxin in the environment comes from waste-burning incinerators of various sorts and also from backyard burn-barrels. Dioxin pollution is also affiliated with paper mills which use chlorine bleaching in their process and with the production of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) plastics and with the production of certain chlorinated chemicals (like many pesticides).
If you're eating the typical North American diet, this is where you are getting your dioxin from:
Chart from EPA Dioxin Reassessment Summary 4/94 - Vol. 1, p. 37
(Figure II-5. Background TEQ exposures for North America by pathway)
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