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Historical Events of Dioxin Exposure

Last Updated on Apr 01, 2016
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Historical Events of Dioxin Exposure

A number of instances of dioxin exposure are recorded, right from 1897. Incidences of contamination, unfortunately, have been detected even in the recent years.


Some of the important events that were associated with dioxin contamination are:

In 1897, chloracne was identified in German workers working at a contaminated industrial site where washing soda was produced. Chloracne is a skin condition that results from dioxin exposure.

In 1947, dioxin exposure resulted in a disease called X-disease in American cattle. This condition was similar to chloracne, but did result in death of the animals.

In 1949, an explosion in a Monsanto chemical plant in West Virginia resulted in the exposure of workers to dioxin leading to persistent chloracne and the development of cancers in those who were highly exposed.

In 1957, a large number of commercially raised chickens in the U.S died due to a disease called chick edema disease. This disease was later found to be caused by TCDD-contaminated food supplied for the chickens.


Between 1962 and 1970, Agent Orange, a chemical used by the American Military that contained dioxin, was found to increase the risk for the development of diabetes and cancers like soft-tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Hodgkin disease, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia in the American military personnel.

In 1968, oil contaminated with PCBs and PCDFs in Kyushu, Japan resulted in deaths to a number of birds and features like skin lesions, fatigue, altered reproductive and immunologic function as well as developmental delays in children.

In 1979, a similar event occurred in Taiwan.

1971, contaminated waste oil was used on the dirt roads of Times Beach, Missouri, in order to control dust. Ultimately, US EPA bought all properties in Times Beach, relocated the inhabitants, demolished the town and incinerated vast amounts of regional soil.

In the late 1970s, human breast milk across Michigan and was found to have high concentrations of PCBs. This resulted from consumption of contaminated fish from polluted waters from the Great Lakes.

In 1976, high levels of TCDD were released into the environment due to an explosion in a chemical plant in Seveso, Italy. It resulted in chloracne in some exposed individuals and long-term studies suggested that exposed individuals were at an increased risk for diabetes, adverse cardiovascular effects, and altered endocrine function.


1997, five people working at a textile institute in Vienna were apparently poisoned with dioxin.

In 1999, a number of animal as well as dairy products from Belgium were recalled since the livestock were fed with PCB-contaminated feed.

In 2004, Viktor Yushchenko, the then-candidate and later president of Ukraine, was allegedly poisoned with TCCD. He suffered from pancreatitis and chloracne.

In 2008, all Irish pork products were banned from import due to the known consumption of dioxin contaminated feed by the animals.


  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.

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