DIOXINS -- Health and Environmental Effects

Dioxins are bad for your health if you burn trash, EPA claims they don't harm you in sludge biosolids

Many dangerous health conditions can be caused by inhaling or ingesting even small amounts of these pollutants.
Small children, the elderly, or people with preexisting respiratory conditions can be especially vulnerable to some of
these pollutants.

Backyard burning is of particular health concern because it produces significant quantities of dioxins. Dioxins and
"dioxin like" compounds are a group of 30 highly toxic chlorinated organic chemicals. They are produced naturally in
small quantities, but are primarily the result of human activity.
They can be produced through industrial
processes such as chlorinated chemical manufacturing and metal smelting
. Currently, however, the largest
quantified source of dioxin emissions is the uncontrolled burning of household trash (backyard burning). Studies have
shown that only small amounts of chlorinated materials in waste are required to support dioxin formation when burning
waste. This means that even when materials containing high levels of chlorine, such as PVC, are removed from
household trash, burning the waste still creates dioxins because nearly all household waste contains trace amounts of

Much of the dioxins created and released into the air through backyard burning settle on plants. These plants are, in
turn, eaten by meat and dairy animals, which store the dioxins in their fatty tissue. People are exposed to dioxins
primarily by eating meat, fish, and dairy products, especially those high in fat. Backyard burning occurs most
commonly in rural farming areas where dioxin emissions can more easily be deposited on animal feed crops and
grazing lands. These dioxins then accumulate in the fats of dairy cows, beef, poultry, and swine, making human
consumption of these harmful chemicals difficult to avoid.

Dioxins are classified as persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic pollutants (PBTs). PBTs are highly toxic, long-lasting
substances that can build up in the food chain to levels that are harmful to human and ecosystem health. Persistent
means they remain in the environment for extended periods of time. Bioaccumulative means their concentration levels
increase as they move up the food chain. As a consequence, animals at the top of the food chain (such as humans)
tend to have the highest dioxin concentrations in their bodies.

Dioxins are potent toxicants with the potential to produce a broad spectrum of adverse effects in humans. Dioxins can
alter the fundamental growth and development of cells in ways that have the potential to lead to many kinds of
impacts. These include adverse effects upon reproduction and development, suppression of the immune system,
disruption of hormonal systems, and cancer. For more detailed information on dioxin health effects, safety issues, and
risk, visit EPA's Dioxin and Related Compounds Web site.

The following is a listing of the source categories covered in the database:

Listing of Sources of CDD/CDF Emissions and Emission Factors
Included Within the Database  
  • Bleached chemical pulp and paper mills
  • Cement kilns burning hazardous waste
  • inlet temperature to APCD > 4500 F
  • inlet temperature to APCD < 4500 F
  • Cement kilns not burning hazardous waste
  • Crematoria
  • Drum & barrel reclamation facilities
  • Ferrous Foundries
  • Hazardous waste incinerators
  • Industrial boilers burning hazardous waste
  • Kraft black liquor recovery boilers
  • Motor vehicles
  • powered with unleaded gasoline
  • powered with leaded gasoline
  • diesel powered heavy duty trucks
  • Municipal solid waste incinerators
  • Medical waste incinerators
  • Power generating facilities
  • coal-fired electric generating plants
  • oil-fire electric generating plants
  • Primary ferrous metal smelting
  • sinter production
  • coke production
  • Primary non-ferrous metal smelting
  • Petroleum refining catalyst regeneration
  • Residential oil combustion
  • Secondary non-ferrous metal smelting
  • secondary aluminum smelting
  • secondary copper smelting
  • secondary lead smelting
  • Sewage sludge incineration
  • Scrap electric wire recovery
  • Tire combustion
  • Industrial wood combustion