Dioxins (and Learning Disabilities)

“dioxins: A group of some of the most toxic carcinogenic human-made chemicals in the world, which have been linked to developmental and learning disabilities. Exposure in childhood can cause lower IQ, result in withdrawn and depressed behavior, and increase hyperactivity and attention problems. Unborn children are even more acutely affected by exposure to dioxins because of the critical development that occurs during pregnancy, especially between the second and eighth week after conception.

Dioxin is the most harmful of all the chemicals in the dioxin group, and is produced by burning plastics containing chlorine, incinerating household waste, and bleaching chlorine paper. It was first used as the toxic chemical in the weapon Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. Although some dioxins are produced naturally as a result of forest fires, most appear in the environment as an industrial by-product.

Dioxins are found everywhere in the environment, introduced into the air from incinerators and smokestacks, where they eventually settle on the ground, in the water, and on the food that livestock eat. Because dioxins do not decompose readily, they are stored in livestock fatty tissue. About 95 percent of human dioxin exposure occurs by eating traces in in meat, dairy products, and fish.

Children are at higher risk for both ingesting dioxins and being harmed because their diets usually have a higher concentration of animal fat in the form of dairy products.”

Excerpted from: Turkington, Carol, and Joseph R. Harris, PhD. The Encyclopedia of Learning Disabilities. New York: Facts on File, 2006.

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