How Do Humans Get Exposed to Dioxins?
90% of the dioxins that build up in an average human come from the food that we eat. Dioxins are found mainly in meats, fish, shellfish, and dairy products, although fish generally contain the greatest amount of dioxins. This is an issue for us in the Great Lakes region because we depend on fish from the lakes. In 1987, strict regulations on industrial practices were put in place and have decreased dioxin emissions in the air by 90%. However, most of our exposure to dioxins is through food, so dioxins are still a very real threat. In addition to this, dioxins take a very long time to decompose, meaning that even though dioxin emissions have been reduced, there are still large concentrations of dioxins in the environment. This is why dioxins are called persistent organic pollutants (POPs).
Effect of Dioxins on Humans
One of the worst effects of dioxins is that they can cause cancer. The risk of cancer is dependent on exposure; much is not yet known about this possible effect. Short-term exposure can lead to skin lesions, chloracne, and dark patches on the skin. Long-term exposure can lead to issues with the immune system, nervous system, and the endocrine system. Dioxins are also linked to type two diabetes and ischemic heart disease. Everyone has a certain level of dioxin concentration called background exposure. It usually doesn't effect a person's health, but dioxins are very toxic, so efforts should be made to decrease background exposure. Chloracne is a skin disease resembling very severe acne which results in long-term exposure of high concentrations of chlorinated chemicals in the air.