The EPA is preparing to publish an updated position by the end of January on what the agency determines to be acceptable levels of dioxins based on a category reanalysis that began last August. The agency is expected to set upper limits for the first time on what is considered safe dioxin consumption levels for Americans.
Dioxins increase the human cancer risk more than any other known substance. The term refers to hundreds of chemicals that are parsed into three groups: CDDs (chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins), CDFs (chlorinated dibenzofurans) and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), the latter of which can no longer be legally produced in the U.S.
Currently, Americans are exposed to dioxin levels that are higher than the likely new set of EPA standards, which would limit dioxin exposure to 0.7 picograms per kilogram of body weight per day (a picogram is one trillionth of a gram), lower than the World Health Organization and European Union limits, which range from one to four picograms. A typical hot dog, under the new regulations, would be toxic to a two-year old because of the high levels of dioxins commonly found in the processed meat product, according to a recent article in The Atlantic. Nearly 90 percent of all dioxins come by way of food, mostly animal proteins high in fat. They are also found naturally occurring in the environment through fires and volcanic activity that can drift into water supplies and contaminate plants and animals in the food chain.
The Atlantic reports that because the agency’s recommendations could put virtually every American over the daily limit, trade organizations that produce high dioxin risk foods (such as meat and dairy) are concerned that the new limits could “mislead and frighten consumers about the safety of their diets,” and have potentially damaging effects on major sectors of the nation’s food producers.
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