Make your own free website on

Porphyria Educational Services

Vol.1 No. 22                                        May 30, 1999
Focus:  Chemical toxins that affect porphyria patients.

Dioxins: One of the multitude of chemical toxins that affect porphyria patients is that of dioxin. What is dioxin?

Dioxin is a colorless, odorless organic compound containing carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and chlorine.

The term dioxin refers to a broad family of chemicals, which differ from one another by the location and number of chlorine atoms on the molecule.

Dioxin has a high affinity for fatty substances and is found adhered to or dissolved in fat tissue, where it can accumulate. In porphyrics the dioxin will remain in the fat while one is  in remission.  When  dieting, losing weight or profusely sweating, the chemical toxins stored in the fat become released.  These toxins then trigger acute attacks of porphyria.

How are humans exposed to dioxin?

There are innumeral ways that people can be exposed to dioxin.  For most people such exposure at mild levels is not harmful.  However for porphyrics
even mild exposure can be most detrimental.

Dioxin is an unintended byproduct of natural events such as volcanoes and forest fires as well as man-made processes such as manufacturing,
incineration, paper and pulp bleaching, and exhaust emissions.

In the Pacific Northwestern United States there are higher incidents of chemical toxins involving dioxin.  It has been speculated for some time that the
higher incidence can be traced to the use of chemical toxins that released in the lumber mills and the manufacturing of paper products.

Dioxin is ubiquitous in the environment: it is found throughout the industrialized world in air, water, soil as well as in food. Exposure to dioxin can come through working in industries where dioxin is a byproduct, industrial accidents, through food and human breast milk and in drinking water.

It must be pointed out that skin contact or breathing represent very small sources of dioxin exposure.

How does dioxin get into the food chain?

Dioxin can enter the food supply through a number of different routes. In fish, the primary route of exposure is through water. Fish taken from streams downstream from paper mills can be largely suspect for chemical toxins.

Plants and animals are exposed to dioxin primarily through particulate in the air. Airborne particles of dioxin settle on forage or feed, which is then eaten by animals.This accounts for dioxin traces being found in milj.

Dioxin concentrates in the fatty tissues of beef and dairy cattle,poultry, pork or>seafood. Theoretically, the longer the life span of an animal, the higher
potential accumulation of dioxin in its adipose tissue.

Washing of fresh produce is a must. Dioxin particles that settle on fruits and vegetables as a result of airborne exposure are removed by washing;
dioxin does not become systemic in the plant or food source.

How much dioxin is contained in beef?

Since the 1950's,  the beef industry has made significant strides in responding to public health goals to reduce consumption of dietary fat. For example, leaner cattle are being bred and today's beef has less trimmable fat, and  some the meat has zero trimmable fat.  Improvements also have
occurred in the production and sale of pork and poultry.

What happens to dioxin when consumed by humans?

Dioxin is stored in human adipose tissue.

Scientists recognize that the effects of dioxin vary widely among different animal species. Humans are less susceptible to the consequences of dioxin exposure than many of the animal species tested in laboratories.

Most research in humans has involved populations involved in occupational or accidental exposures of dioxin several thousand times higher than normal. Residents of Seveso, Italy

What is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doing to reduce dioxin exposures?

FDA has worked with the paper industry to establish a voluntary guideline for lowering dioxin levels in paperboard used for food packaging, such as milk cartons. The agency is also developing new analytic methodologies to improve dioxin monitoring.

People and especially those who are porphyric  who want to minimize  their potential exposure to dioxin in the diet should follow advice to consume a low-fat, balanced diet. This includes:

       1. Selecting lean cuts of beef, pork and poultry in the meat case;
       2. Trimming and discarding fat from beef, poultry or seafood before
           eating, including any skin;
       3. Choosing low-fat dairy products; and
       4. Eating moderate portions of a wide variety of foods.

It is well to remember that Dioxons are only one of a large host of chemical toxins that can trigger acute attacks in porphyrics or cause extreme sensitivities for MCS patients.