Dioxins Program - Health Effects

This page last reviewed July 21, 2015

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Dioxins in California

Health Effects

What are the Health Effects Associated with Exposure to Dioxins?

Studies have shown that exposure to dioxins can cause cancer or other non-cancer health effects. Probable routes of exposure to dioxins are inhalation, ingestion, and skin exposure. A nursing baby may also be exposed to dioxins through its mother's milk. Studies have shown that exposure to dioxins has caused chloracne, liver toxicity, skin rashes, nausea, vomiting, and muscular aches and pains. The immune system also appears to be very sensitive to dioxin toxicity. The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has listed dioxin as a compound in which infants and children may be especially susceptible to illness. Additional information on dioxin health effects for children can be found on OEHAA's website at http://www.oehha.ca.gov/air/toxic_contaminants/pdf_zip/dioxin_Final.pdf.

In addition to the toxicity of dioxins there is concern about dioxins because of the long persistence in the environment and in the body. Emissions into the air can result in deposition onto crops, grass, and feed. These deposited dioxins are either eaten by humans directly or eaten by livestock and become a source of contamination for humans in beef, poultry and dairy products. In addition, subsistence fisherman can have unusually high levels of dioxin. Generally with dioxins, the potential health risk from what you breathe is relatively insignificant compared to the potential risk from the food we eat or soil we incidentally ingest. For this reason, it is appropriate to conduct a multipathway health risk assessment rather than just an inhalation-only health risk assessment. Information on how to conduct health risk assessments can be found on OEHHA's website at: http://www.oehha.ca.gov/air/hot_spots/HRAguidefinal.html.

California's Dioxins Program | Air Toxics Program