Dioxins are a family of chemicals comprising 75 different types of dioxin compounds and 135 related compounds called furans. In addition, twelve of the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) display a related chemical structure and share some of the biological properties of dioxins. For the purposes of this web site, the term “dioxin” includes both dioxins and furans. Dioxins are unintended by-products of certain industrial processes and also occur due to activities such as backyard burning of household trash, and natural events such as forest fires.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, dioxin and furan emissions to the environment in the U.S. have been reduced by approximately 90 percent between 1987 and 2000, the last year for which data exists. Additionally, global emissions continue to decline. Today, the uncontrolled burning of residential waste is believed to be among the largest sources of dioxin emissions, globally. People are exposed to dioxin as the result of the consumption of animal products such as meat, dairy and fish. We believe that there is a lack of evidence of humans having experienced health effects from low-level exposures. While dioxin effects have been reported in some studies, there is no consensus within the scientific community on whether today’s low-level of dioxin in the environment cause human health effects. Recently, scientific studies have shown that humans are less sensitive to the effects of dioxin than some laboratory animals.
Dioxin from historical emissions also has been part of ongoing discussions with local communities in Great Lakes Bay Region and New Zealand.
Dow has undertaken considerable efforts to reduce dioxin emissions and actively promotes improvements and solutions across industry. Dow believes any action toward resolving dioxin-related issues should be based on science. We seek science-based solutions that protect human health and the environment, while also contributing to the well-being of the local community. Dow supports biological research on the effects of dioxin. Dow supports corrective action that is specific to a particular site and decisions based on the realistic probability for exposure.
With the advent of newer scientific tools, including our ability to examine how human genes respond to chemicals, many unanswered questions regarding dioxin toxicity can be explored. Dow has embarked on a research program with these new scientific tools. Dow is collaborating with a number of academic laboratories headed by experts in the area of dioxin and the biological effects of dioxins in humans and laboratory animals. This extensive research program is addressing basic research questions on why humans are less sensitive to dioxins than rats and mice; how the dioxins and furans differ as to their toxicity potential, and how dioxins cause their biological effects in rats and mice and what are the risk assessment implications of this understanding. The results from these studies have been and will continue to be published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature and presented at major scientific meetings as the research is completed. The results from this research will improve the accuracy of conducting risk assessments when humans come into contact with dioxins.
Last Updated: September 2011
Dioxins and Furans Defined
Dow's Progress on Reducing Emissions
Health Effects of Dioxin
Regulations and Public Policy