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Industrial Pollutants Measured in Vegans

Last week the Environmental Protection Agency released their long-awaited health report on dioxin, a class of industrial pollutants of Agent Orange infamy. Dubbed “the most toxic compound synthesized by man,” dioxin is considered a known human carcinogen, and may contribute to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, endometriosis, early menopause, reduced testosterone and thyroid hormones, altered metabolism and immune responses, and skin, tooth, and nail abnormalities. Exposure during pregnancy can result in altered thyroid, brain, immune system, and reproductive organ development.

The Environmental Protection Agency started testing Americans’ tissues for dioxin levels back in 1982, and after 3 decades of delay, released new guidelines setting safety limits on the exposure of U.S. consumers to this class of toxic chemicals. In response, the National Chicken Council, American Meat Institute, and other industry groups complained to the White House that their products “could arbitrarily be classified as unfit for consumption.” But the classification wouldn’t be arbitrary at all; it would be based on the level of dioxin contamination in the food.

Warning consumers about the risk could “scare the crap out of people,” the industry groups contend, and “have a significant negative economic impact on all U.S. food producers.” But that’s not true either. According to the Food and Drug Administration, “over 95% [of dioxin exposure is] coming through dietary intake of animal fats.”

The only reason “nearly every American – particularly young children – could easily exceed the daily RfD [reference dose exposure limit] after consuming a single meal” is because Americans currently eat so much meat, eggs, and dairy.

Consumer food safety champion Caroline Smith DeWaal praised the EPA’s decision to set a dioxin safety limit but stressed that the agency needs to take it a step further: “Having a limit is always a good thing, but consumers will need to know how to translate it into their daily diet.” Eating low on the food chain is the best strategy to reduce one’s risk, as I explain in my NutritionFacts.org video pick above.

In my Dioxins in the Food Supply video, I run through the latest USDA and EPA survey data of the level of dioxins and dioxin-like pollutants in the American food supply. Fish is the most contaminated (see Farmed Fish vs. Wild-Caught, The Problem with Organic Salmon, and Is Distilled Fish Oil Toxin-Free?). In fact, the levels of dioxins and other pollutants in the body can be used as a biomarker for fish consumption (see Hair Testing for Mercury). Second only to fish in terms of industrial toxic waste in our food supply, was eggs (see also Food Sources of PCB Chemical Pollutants). Given that the third most contaminated was dairy, it’s not surprising that the National Cheese Institute and International Ice Cream Association also opposed the EPA dioxin limit. They said they feared it “would scare consumers away from our products.”

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

Image credit: NASA

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at NutritionFacts.org.

87 comments

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7:39AM PST on Jan 10, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

8:30PM PST on Mar 7, 2012

We as americans consume way too much meat and dairy products, The stomach will use most of your energy just trying to digest them. Humans weren't necessarily designed to eat these types of food on a daily basis.

8:02PM PST on Mar 5, 2012

Consumers have a right to be informed. Hopefully this will lead to better outcomes for people and the planet.

12:58PM PST on Mar 2, 2012

This is scary stuff and that our government officials are bought and paid for by these industries and are looking out for them instead of the people just makes me sick.

I'm going to join a organic co-op this year it may just be a little safer then all these huge meat and poultry corporations. We need many more studies and tighter regulations on our food industry but how long will that take. Co-op's bring people together that believe in a healthy life style and I'm all for that.

Thank you for sharing.

7:23PM PST on Mar 1, 2012

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7:24AM PST on Mar 1, 2012

It's shocking that this is so unheard of.

CC C, don't lose hope! There is such a thing as vegan organic farming (sometimes called stockfree). I practise it on a teeny-tiny scale in my vegetable garden. Some actual farms use it, but it's cheaper to use waste products from animal farming (especially if the farm itself incorporates livestock). Just like people are moving back to organic farming despite the cost, because people want to buy it, we can encourage this type of farming. :) I also don't think plants are actually affected by dioxins, either, though I could be wrong.

10:07AM PST on Feb 29, 2012

oh my. Thanks for the video.

1:23PM PST on Feb 27, 2012

Please note that veggie and fruit producers use scraps from the fish and factory farms to fertilize their fields. This is Considered to be Classified as Organic according to the FDA
So, if we stay away from sea creatures and land creatures, we are still eating what they cannot sell as food to the general public but becomes part of our vegetable and fruit crops.
Every day I learn something new and all of it is pointing to Hopelessness. There is no excape Physical from Hell :-(

4:01AM PST on Feb 27, 2012

thankyou

5:38PM PST on Feb 26, 2012

Dioxins are in many things including some teabags (used for bleaching) and disposable nappies, not just food.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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Sounds good, I will substitute vegan yogurt.

The classic cyber-version of procrastination: bookmark.

my name is JULIE MATTIE. When i read a testimony online on how dr.drust the great and most powerful …

Thanks bunches. Happy Holidays ! =)

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