A look at health con­cerns con­nected to diox­ins

The Dallas Morning News - - State -

High lev­els of diox­ins, chem­i­cals linked to birth de­fects and can­cer, might have washed away from a Hous­ton-area Su­per­fund site af­ter a cap meant to con­tain con­tam­i­nated sed­i­ment was dam­aged dur­ing flood­ing from Hur­ri­cane Har­vey, the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency said.

The agency said a wa­ter sam­ple near the ex­posed area of the fab­ric-and-rock cap at the San Jac­into River Waste Pits found diox­ins at more than 2,300 times the level that would trig­ger a cleanup.

What are diox­ins? Diox­ins are a group of toxic chem­i­cal com­pounds formed pri­mar­ily dur­ing burn­ing and many in­dus­trial ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing trash in­cin­er­a­tion, coal-fired power gen­er­a­tion, cop­per smelt­ing, ce­ment-mak­ing and chlo­rine bleach­ing of pulp and pa­per.

Diox­ins stay in the en­vi­ron­ment for a long time, build­ing up and be­com­ing more dan­ger­ous as they move up the food chain.

What are the health risks?

The most com­mon and dan­ger­ous dioxin — TCDD, an in­gre­di­ent in the Viet­nam War-era de­fo­liant Agent Or­ange — is linked to lung can­cer and non-Hodgkin’s lym­phoma.

High lev­els of diox­ins also have been linked to many other health prob­lems, in­clud­ing birth de­fects, heart dis­ease and di­a­betes. But even low lev­els can cause a host of prob­lems, in­clud­ing skin and gas­troin­testi­nal is­sues.

How are peo­ple ex­posed? Ev­ery­one is ex­posed to diox­ins in food, air and wa­ter, and those who han­dle pesti- cides and her­bi­cides also may be ex­posed.

Peo­ple who live near haz­ardous waste sites, in­cin­er­a­tors and fac­to­ries can be ex­posed to high lev­els. A con­cern of res­i­dents near the San Jac­into River Waste Pits Su­per­fund site is that diox­ins don’t dis­solve eas­ily in wa­ter — and can be washed away in con­tam­i­nated sed­i­ments and de­posited over a wider area.

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