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Dioxin: Dioxin Prevention
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Releases to the Atmosphere
Dioxin in the Environment
Dioxin in the Food Supply
Health Effects
Regulations & Policies
Dioxin Prevention
Assistance Activities
Where To Go for Help
Complete List of Links

Essential Links:

How To Start To Stop Dioxin Exposure in Your Community
Focuses on sources, health effects, and problems of dioxins. It further discusses ways to the curre...

Questions and Answers about Dioxins
Focuses on answering questions about dioxins, EPA's dioxin report, food safety, and risk assessment....

Preventing Dioxin Formation

Although the level of dioxin emissions has decreased by more than 90% since the 1970s, preventive measures still need to be taken to further reduce human dioxin exposure. Preventive measures need to be implemented every step along the way, from source to human contact.

First, dioxins and furans and their chemical "building blocks" in waste material need to be completely destroyed during combustion. This is accomplished through the "3-T Rule":

  1. high combustion temperature to maximize waste destruction (temperatures over 1000 degrees Celsius for large amounts of contaminated materials)
  2. adequate combustion time (usually two seconds) to maximize waste destruction
  3. high combustion turbulence to distribute heat evenly and ensure complete waste destruction

Second, conditions that favor formation of dioxins and furans immediately following combustion must be prevented. This is achieved through use of a "fast-quench" of post-combustion gases by cooling them quickly from high temperatures through the temperature range of approximately 400 degrees Celsius down to 250 degrees Celsius. Also, presence of certain metals known to facilitate dioxin and furan formation on particulate matter should be minimized.

Another way to reduce dioxin emissions during combustion is to install a gasification dissolution furnace, which involves burning waste, separating the combustible gas from the ash, and then further heating and solidifying the ash using this gas as energy. Through this process, the occurrence of dioxin is minimized by completely burning the waste and purifying the emitted gas. In addition, the United States Environmental Agency named activated carbon technology as the maximum achievable control technology available for incineration.

Since backyard trash burning is now considered to be the leading cause of dioxin emissions, incentives such as discounted or more convenient trash service may help reduce the amount of trash burning. Stronger local enforcement of existing restrictions on burning of trash and an increase in public education would help to curb this practice. Residential wood burning and accidental landfill fires are other sources of dioxin emissions that can be prevented. Landfill fires can result in uncontrolled burning of wastes under conditions that favor dioxin formation. Production of methane, a highly flammable gas, plays a large role in the ignition of landfill fires. Principle methods for landfill fire prevention are effective landfill management, including thoroughly inspecting and controlling incoming refuse, compacting refuse buried to prevent hot spots from forming, prohibiting smoking on-site, and maintaining good site security and appropriate methane gas detection and collection.

Use of chlorine-free processes and products is another way to prevent dioxin emissions. Under the Cluster Rule, pulp and paper industries were driven to reduce dioxin emissions through totally chlorine-free and processed chlorine-free processes. Alternative waste handling methods, such as recycling, composting, and thermolyses, reduce the need for waste combustion and incineration, and therefore reduce the potential for dioxin emissions from these sources.

Reducing Personal Exposure to Dioxin

Next, people should pay attention to local fishing advisories for fish that they catch themselves. Fishing advisories may exist that provide recommended consumption rates of particular kinds of fish from particular water bodies where local contamination has occurred. If people do not know whether a water body that they fish in is covered under fishing advisories, they should call local or state health or environmental protection departments and ask for advice. They can also ask about fish advisories at local sporting goods or bait shops where fishing licenses are sold. The United States Environmental Protection Agency's national listing of fish and wildlife advisories Web site ( lists federal and state fish advisory contacts.

Furthermore, the federal dietary guideline for lowering the risk of dioxins while maintaining the benefits of a good diet, is to choose fish, lean meat, poultry, and low or fat-free (skim) dairy products and to increase consumption of fruits, vegetables, and grain products. Lean meat includes meats that are naturally lower in fat, and meat where visible fat has been trimmed. For fish and poultry, you can reduce fat by removing the skin. Reducing the amount of butter or lard used in preparation of foods and cooking methods that reduce fat (such as oven broiling) will also lower the risk of exposure to dioxin.

Finally, communities must choose the most effective combination of educating, offering alternative practices, and enforcing regulations in order to reduce dioxin emissions.

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Hub Last Updated: 10/8/2013