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Chemical Exposure of our Military Personnel




Dioxins are among the most toxic substances known to man. TCDD (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin) is one of the most toxic of the chlorinated dioxins. Dioxins have no particular uses. They are not manufactured intentionally, but are synthesized incidentally during some industrial processes. For example, under certain conditions relatively large concentrations of dioxins are inadvertently synthesized during industrial reactions involving 2,4,5-trichlorophenol.

TCDD is also a trace contaminant of other products manufactured from trichlorophenol, including hexachlorophene, once commonly used as a topical antibacterial treatment. TCDD is incidentally synthesized when wood pulp is bleached using chlorine-based oxidants. The low-temperature combustion of chlorine-containing organic materials (for example, in cigarettes, burning garbage dumps, and barbecues) also produce dioxins, including TCDD. The incineration of municipal waste synthesizes small quantities of TCDD, although the relatively high temperatures reduce the yield of dioxins compared with the smoldering kinds of combustion just mentioned. Dioxins are also synthesized naturally in trace quantities, mostly during forest fires and volcanoes. (

Dioxins are slowly bio-transformed in the body and are not easily eliminated. They tend to accumulate in fat and in the liver. By interacting with a cellular receptor, the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor (AhR), dioxins can trigger biological effects such as hormonal disturbances and alterations in cell function. (

Defoliation involves the extermination of plant life that in military operations might conceal enemy armed forces, command centers, supply depots, or, less commonly, fields of crops. Such destruction is accomplished by three principal courses of action: setting fires; dropping napalm (15 million napalm bombs dropped over N. Korea) or phosphorus bombs; and spraying chemical agents from trucks, helicopters, or fixed-wing aircraft. During World War II and the Korean War the United States employed the former two methods, whereas during the Vietnam War chemical agents, chiefly Agent Orange which contains dioxin, tended to be used. (

The dioxins induce a range of toxic effects, involving most of the organ systems of the body. The major health effects associated with human exposure are cancer, reproductive toxicity, immune suppression, hepatotoxicity, neurologic dysfunction and dermatotoxicity. (


Sources of Dioxin

According to the most recent US EPA data the major sources of dioxin are:

Coal fired utilities

Metal smelting

Diesel trucks

Land application of sewage sludge

Burning treated wood

Trash burn barrels

These sources together account for nearly 80% of dioxin emissions.


Health Effects of Dioxin (especially TCDD) may include:

Sufficient evidence of an association

soft tissue sarcoma

non-hodgkin's lymphoma


Limited/suggestive evidence of an association

respiratory cancers (lung, larynx, trachea)

prostate cancer

multiple myeloma

spina bifida

acquired porphyria

Inadequate or inssufficient evidence for an associaton

hepatobiliary cancers

nasal/nasopharyngeal cancer

bone cancer

skin cancer

breast cancer

renal cancer

testicular cancer


spontaneous abortion

birthdefects (other than spina bifida)

childhood cancer in offspring

male infertility

cognitive and neuropsychiatric disorders

motor/coordination dysfunction

immune system disorders

circulatory disorders

respiratory disorders

skin cancer