Last Updated on Apr 01, 2016

Health Effects of Dioxin Exposure

A number of conditions like chloracne, cardiovascular diseases and damage to the reproductive system, hormonal system and normal development have been associated with dioxin exposure.

Exposure to dioxins usually results from intake of food contaminated with dioxins, especially dairy products, fish and meat. Dioxin intake can result in a number of health-related issues. However, conclusive evidence regarding the association between many of these effects and dioxin exposure has not been established. Effects on various body systems that could be due to dioxin exposure are:

  • Skin: Chloracne is a skin condition strongly associated with dioxin exposure. It is a condition similar to acne that often affects the face, armpits and groins.
  • Liver: Dioxins cause a temporary increase in liver enzymes.
  • Reproductive system: Dioxin exposure has been associated with delay in development of reproductive organs. In females, it may result in endometriosis, early menopause, and delayed breast development, while in males it may result in reduced testosterone levels and altered sperm count and motility. Alteration in sex ratios has also been observed in areas of dioxin exposure.
  • Hormonal system: Dioxin may also affect other hormones resulting in diabetes, and hypothyroidism.
  • Cardiovascular system: Heart diseases including ischemic heart disease, rheumatic heart disease, heart attacks and high blood pressure could be associated with dioxin exposure.
  • Immune system: The immune system may be affected resulting in increasing susceptibility to infections.
  • Nervous system: Altered behavior, psychomotor function, cognition could occur due to dioxin exposure.
  • Normal development: Development of a child including that of the nervous system and teeth could be affected by dioxins.
  • Cancer: Cancers such as leukemia, multiple myeloma, digestive tract cancers and liver cancers occurred in people exposed to dioxins, thus suggesting a possible role of dioxins in the development of cancer.


  1. White SS and Birnbaum LS. An Overview of the Effects of Dioxins and Dioxin-like Compounds on Vertebrates, as Documented in Human and Ecological Epidemiology. J Environ Sci Health C Environ Carcinog Ecotoxicol Rev. 2009; 27(4): 197211.
  2. Bertazzi PA, Bernucci I, Brambilla G, Consonni D,4 and Pesatori AC. The Seveso Studies on Early and Long-Term Effects of Dioxin Exposure: A Review. Environ Health Perspect 1998; 106(Suppl 2):625-633.
  3. Kogevinas M. Human Health Effects of Dioxins: Cancer, Reproductive and Endocrine System Effects. Human Reproduction Update 2001; 7(3): 331-339.

Most Popular on Medindia