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Dioxin prevention and medical waste incinerators

by J Thornton, M McCally, P Orris, J Weinberg
Public Health Reports ()

Abstract

CHLORINATED DIOXINS and related compounds are extremely potent toxic substances, producing effects in humans and animals at extremely low doses. Because these compounds are persistent in the environment and accumulate in the food chain, they are now distributed globally, and every member of the human population is exposed to them, primarily through the food supply and mothers' milk. An emerging body of information suggests that dioxin contamination has reached a level that may pose a large-scale, long-term public health risk. Of particular concern are dioxin's effects on reproduction, development, immune system function, and carcinogenesis. Medical waste incineration is a major source of dioxins. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, as the dominant source of organically bound chlorine in the medical waste stream, is the primary cause of 'iatrogenic' dioxin produced by the incineration of medical wastes. Health professionals have a responsibility to work to reduce dioxin exposure from medical sources. Health care institutions should implement policies to reduce the use of PVC plastics, thus achieving major reductions in medically related dioxin formation.

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