Dioxin Myth: Environmental Dioxin Poisoning
is Responsible for Mounting Cases of Acne in Adult Women
November 11, 2005
A California company is claiming that dioxin poisoning is
at the root of increasing numbers of cases of adult acne in
women. The company's press release claims that dioxin exposure
can cause the body to produce excess amounts of keratin, the
protein found in hair, fingernails and skin. This buildup
of keratin, according to the press release, clogs pores and
causes pimples and blackheads.
Here are the facts:
- There is no scientific evidence linking ambient levels
of dioxin exposure to adult acne in women. The one health
effect clearly linked to extremely rare, high levels of
dioxin exposure is a reversible skin condition known as
chloracne. The level of exposure needed to cause
chloracne is hundreds of times greater than the very low
level to which the general public is exposed.
- People who have developed chloracne were exposed to unusually
high levels of dioxins through workplace accidents or, as
alleged in the case of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko,
intentional poisonings. Chloracne does not appear to affect
women preferentially to men.
- Figure 1 compares the average US body level of one dioxin
compound--2,3,7,8-TCDD-to levels recorded in rare cases
of high exposure to this compound. The US Centers for Disease
Control & Prevention (CDC) states that 2,3,7,8-TCDD body
levels of at least 800 parts per trillioni are likely necessary
to induce chloracne.ii The latest CDC data show the average
American's body level of this compound is less than 5.2
parts per trillion.iii
More information on rare cases of high dioxin exposure
is available by clicking here.
- Virtually everyone on Earth is exposed to extremely low
levels of dioxins, with no apparent ill health effects.
Throughout human history, people have been exposed to natural
sources of dioxins including forest fires, volcanoes and
- Dioxins have never been manufactured for commercial use.
They are trace by-products of various types of combustion
and manufacturing. Over the past few decades, industry and
government have worked together to reduce industrial dioxin
emissions to the environment. As a result, dioxin emissions,
as monitored by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
have plummeted by 92 percent since 1987. According to EPA
data, the most significant quantified source of dioxin exposure
in the US today is backyard trash burning.
iA part per trillion is roughly
equivalent to one drop of ink in an Olympic-size swimming
iiMocarelli et al. (1991). Serum Concentrations
of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin and test results from
selected residents of Seveso, Italy. Journal of Toxicology
and Environmental Health, 32, 357-66, as cited in:
iiiUS Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
(2005). Third National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental