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Dioxin Exposure Tied to Cancer

High exposure to the chemical dioxin can lead to cancer, but the amounts of dioxins currently in the environment are too low to cause a public health problem.Dioxin was a byproduct in the manufacturing of herbicides and pesticides commonly used decades ago. Dioxin was also one of the chemicals in Agent Orange, the herbicide used by the United States to destroy jungle vegetation during the Vietnam War. Today, dioxin is in the environment as a byproduct
of incinerators burning plastics.

Researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health studied the records of 3,500 chemical workers who were exposed to dioxin while on the job for periods of six months to 20 years during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. They found chemical workers exposed to high levels of dioxin showed a 60 percent higher rate of cancer deaths compared to the rate of cancer deaths among the general public. These workers were exposed dioxin levels 100 to 1,000 times greater than what the public is generally exposed to, researchers say. Intense dioxin exposure appeared to cause all types of cancer, from cancers in the respiratory system to cancers in the digestive tract.

This study appears in the May 5 issue of Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

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