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Dioxin: what it is and where it is found

Dioxin: what it is and where it is found


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Explain to youwhat is dioxinit is not complicated, it is much more complicated to try to identify where is it. Unfortunately, this chemical is present in many products and compounds. The effects on humans and the environment are very harmful.

Dioxin: what it is and where it is found, what are thehealth effectsof man and what the IARC says.

Meaning. The word dioxin refers to a large family of compounds that is distinguished by its toxicity which is present, in an equivalent way, in the different categories of compounds indicated with the termdioxin.

Dioxin: what it is

It is a class of compounds, so rather than talking about “dioxin” we should talk about it in the plural: dioxins. They are heterocyclic organic compounds whose fundamental molecular structure is given by a ring with six atoms, four of carbon and two of oxygen.

With the termdioxinit refers to a more stable compound while its two molecular isomers.

Thedioxins, in simple terms, they arechemical substanceswho have abrute formula C.4H.4OR2.

There are also other substances which, due to chemical affinity and similar effects, are defined as "dioxins" (dioxin-like molecules).The entire class ofdioxinsis designed for histoxicityand, more generally, for theenvironmental toxicity.

Many dioxins are classified as "persistent organic pollutants"That is, chemicals that are very resistant to decomposition that remain in the environment for a very long time and that unfortunately are" popular "for sometoxic properties.

For the harmful impact on the environment and human health, somedioxinsthey are considered godsreal poisons, others like "carcinogens". It is clear that theeffectson humans and the environment are harmful.

Effects on humans

Let's talk aboutwater contamination (rarer), soil (more frequent) and air pollution (frequent). The effects on humans are dramatic. Dioxin exerts neurotoxic and endocrine-destroying effects.

As stated, the term dioxin refers to a large family of compounds. These are classified into four categories of environmental toxicity. All are consideredcarcinogenic to humans.

It has been shown that exposure to dioxin can cause endometriosis.

Among other health effects we point out

  • Skin diseases such as chloracne
  • Liver changes
  • Difficulty in glucose metabolism
  • Damage to the immune system
  • Endocrine system impairment
  • Hormonal imbalances (thyroid and steroid hormones)
  • Harmful effects on the development of the fetus

Somedioxinsthey can cause tumors of the lymphatic tissue, of the hematopoietic tissue (causing various forms of leukemia, non-Hodgking lymphomas ..) and breast cancer.

For this reason, the IARC (Agency for Reserach on Cancer) has classified a good number of "dioxins" in group 1 as the most carcinogenic elements for humans.

Dioxin: where it is found

Answering this question is more difficult. It is assumed that the people most exposed to dioxin are those who live in close proximity toindustrial centersisincinerators. However, industrial centers and incinerators that are located close to farms or crops can become onesource of dioxin.

Human dioxin exposures, contrary to what one might imagine, occur more frequentlythrough foodthat throughbreathing(by food and only to a small extent by air).

What's up? The phenomenon ofbioaccumulationcauses thedioxinup the food chain. First of all, dioxin can be concentrated in plants grown near industrial plants or incinerators, or grown on polluting soils. Vegetables are administered to humans directly or used as animal feed for human consumption.

Theredioxin in humanshas ahalf-lifevery long-lived, our body would be able to dispose of it in a time ranging from 5.8 to 11.3 years (Oslon).

More, dioxin is found, directly, in some herbicides and pesticides. In the photo above, a helicopter flying over Vietnam spreads a product known as Agent Orange, a powerful herbicide with harmful effects on the environment and which contains "traces" of dioxin. This product, fortunately, has never been used in Italy.

On the other hand, in our country, there was no lack of food scandals with foods containing dioxins. A few years ago there was talk of dioxin milk and dioxin-contaminated mozzarella.

The "Ilva case" attracted media attention due to the harmful effects on the environment and human health, among the polluting protagonists there is thedioxin.

Burnings of waste

Compounds belonging to the family ofdioxinare released in the initial phase ofwaste combustion. Burnt waste is a source of dioxin, which is why the fires of the land of fires have been so bad for the health of local populations.

Presence of chlorine (as in plastics) and metals inwasteburned, sets the basic condition for the formation ofdioxinduring combustion.

The major dioxin producers are:

  • Incinerators or waste-to-energy plants
  • Steel and metallurgical industry
  • Glass and cearmic production sites
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Combustion of solid urban waste
  • Smoke from cremations
  • Gas produced by thermoelectric plants

Today, knowing theeffects of dioxin, technologies are being developed to reduce production starting from the chemical industries.

In 1976, there was an accident at the Seveso chemical plant, in the ICMESA company in Meda, this accident caused the release and dispersion of a dioxin cloud, considered a real "cloud of poison".

The poison hit a large area of ​​land in the neighboring municipalities of lower Brianza, particularly that of Seveso. According to a 2010 ranking by Time magazine, the accident in Italy ranks eighth among the worst environmental disasters in history. The American site CBS has listed the disaster among the 12 worst environmental catastrophes ever. The repercussions on humans and the environment are still being studied today.


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