Are all cheeses (and milk products) an equally toxic source of POPs? (from an Action Greens group thread – includes info on Dioxins also)

From an Action Greens group thread:

In a message dated 1/17/2002 6:05:51 PM Seth wrote:

I am an ethical vegetarian but I am not a vegan. Are all cheeses (and milk products) an equally toxic source of POPs? Do you think that in order to minimize the risk of getting cancer, one should eliminate all meats (which I don't eat myself) and all dairy products from one's diet? What about low-fat cheeses? What about those that are labeled organic? What about organic eggs? Are there sources of protein that you do recommend?


POPs, Persistant Organic Pollutants, accumulate in the fatty tissue of cows, and come out in the milk. The toxins come chiefly from fallout from the atmosphere, adsorbing and absorbing to the vegetation they eat. Organic milk cannot escape this contamination. The concentrations are much higher than in plants, since the toxins bio-accumulate in the cows. Fish also collect toxins, from the water and what they eat. The shorter lived, non-scavenging, non-carnivorous fish have less concentrated toxins, heavy metals and POPs. The best way to reduce POPs in dairy and meat is to reduce POPS at the source, Pollution Prevention. Greenpeace has been on the forefront on this as far as activist organizations. World Wildlife Fund also. see also CBNS

from Carol:

Re: toxins in dairy products, here's a depressing elaboration from another list:

Organic Issues ( Posted: 12/27/2001 By


While folks on the Sustainable Agriculture Network Listserve (SANET) are discussing issues related to matters involving the health and nutrition of milk and dairy products, I offer the following:

I raise dairy goats. In Washington State, regs have caused elimination of raw milk from commerce, which I consider a shame as I believe the enzymes of raw milk from small, clean dairies, are very health-giving.

But an issue that does not get the exposure it deserves is the presence of dioxin in all milk, raw, pasteurized, organic… All Milk.

Please review the information below that only scratches the surface of this immense ecological and public health disaster.

I want folks to be able to choose to consume dairy products while keeping an open mind about potential, non-dioxin-related problems with the practice (I drink my goat milk every day), but as long as dioxin continues to be released into the environment, folks should be advised to severely reduce or eliminate the consumption of meat and dairy products from their diets no matter the source.

For more information on dioxin in the food chain and its effects, contact the folks at P.E.A.C.H. (People for Environmental Action and Children's Health) at: – Email:

The current SANET discussion threads of "Milk Nutrition and Pasteurization", "Milk Nutrition" and "Dairy Products and Dioxin" can be found in the SANET archives at:

Chrys Ostrander


The Economic Cost of Air Pollution in the U.S. & Florida DRAFT (11-1-96)

Dioxin and related compounds have been found in significant levels in the food chain and people in the U.S. and other industrialized countries. The main source of such dioxin is emissions from incinerators (43). Dioxin has been found to be one of the most toxic and carcinogenic chemicals ever tested, and has been found to cause cancer, endocrine system and immune system damage, birth defects, learning disabilities, etc. Dioxin is being found at dangerous levels in cows milk, mother's milk, sperm cells, etc.- especially near incinerators. No studies were found that attempted to quantify the total cost of health effects due to dioxin, but studies indicate that impacts appear to be large and in the billions of dollars. [B.Windham, "Health Effects of Dioxin", 5-3-93 (annotated bibliography)]

Fast Facts,


Environmental Media Services
Last update: January 23, 2001


Dioxin is a toxic waste product formed when municipal and hazardous waste is burned and when chemicals containing chlorine are manufactured. It is a family of 75 chemicals technically known as "chlorinated dibenzo dioxins" (CDDs).

The most well-known dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD) is extremely toxic and known to cause cancer in humans and animals. The World Health Organization upgraded dioxin from a "probable" to a "known human carcinogen" in February 1997.

The External Science Advisory Panel of the National Toxicology Program (NTP) voted in October 2000 to upgrade dioxin to "known human carcinogen" status. In January 2001, the NTP listing became official, despite attempts by restaurant and food businesses to block the listing in court. Plaintiffs attempting to block the listing included Jim Tozzi, president of Multinational Business Services Inc., the Empire State Restaurant Association, Greenbaum & Gilhooley's, Beduci, and Brevet Industries.
[Press release] [More info from the NTP on dioxin's carcinogenicity (PDF)]

Targeted for global elimination or phase-out under ongoing United Nations negotiations.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), people who are exposed to any amount of dioxin are at an increased risk for cancer. (1997)

Dioxin is a known endocrine disruptor.

Dioxin is a toxic waste product formed when municipal and hazardous waste is burned and when chemicals containing chlorine are manufactured. It is a family of 75 chemicals technically known as "chlorinated dibenzo dioxins" (CDDs).

Dioxins typically co-occur with chlorinated dibenzofurans, a family of 135 chemicals. Some furans are nearly identical to dioxins in structure and toxicity. The two chemical families are often discussed as one group.

Dioxins are never manufactured deliberately (except for laboratory research) and are unintentionally created in two major ways:

by the processes used to manufacture products such as certain pesticides, preservatives, disinfectants, and paper products; when materials such as household garbage or toxic waste, including hospital waste, leaded gasoline, plastic, paper, and dioxin-contaminated wood are burned.

Dioxin is highly persistent in the environment and is extremely resistant to chemical or physical breakdown.


It is believed that 96 percent of the general population's exposure to dioxins and dibenzofurans is through contaminated food – primarily by eating the animal fat in meat, fish, poultry and dairy products. Dioxins and dibenzofurans are bioaccummulative – they are stored mainly in fatty tissue and are passed up the food chain from plants to animals to humans. Stored levels of these substances remain constant or generally increase with time.

Top ten estimated sources of dioxins and dibenzofurans:

Municipal waste incineration (mainly from plastics)
Hospital waste incineration
Toxic waste incineration
Industrial wood burning
Secondary copper smelting
Forest fires (see explanation below)
Diesel fuel combustion
Residential wood burning
Cement kilns
Sewage sludge incineration

So-called "natural" occurrences such as forest fires and volcano eruptions are also responsible for releasing high levels of dioxins and dibenzofurans into the environment. The presence of these chemicals in organic matter is not natural, however, and is the result of dioxins and other synthetic chlorinated organic chemicals picked up from the air, land, and water of forested areas.

Improper disposal of waste containing dioxins and dibenzofurans resulted in the contamination of towns such as Times Beach in Missouri and the Love Canal in New York.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a common plastic that produces dioxins and dibenzofurans when burned. Since PVC is usually present in municipal waste in large amounts, its incineration is believed to contribute dioxins and dibenzofurans to the air.

Leaded gasoline and diesel fuel produce dioxins and dibenzofurans when they are burned. Thus, autos may contribute to the amount of dioxins and dibenzofurans, especially in urban areas in countries where leaded gasoline is still used.

Airborne dioxins and dibenzofurans can travel long distances, making it critical that air toxics are well-regulated world-wide. Dioxins and dibenzofurans are among the 12 man-made chemicals targeted for global phase-out by the UN Treaty on Persistant Organic Pollutants (POPs), scheduled for negotiation in June 1998.



EPA ranks Dioxin in the top 10 percent most toxic chemicals for human health.

The average person in the U.S. is already contaminated with an average "body burden" — the build-up of dioxins in our systems — of 9 picograms/gram of body weight. It takes relatively small amounts to alter glucose tolerance. Exposure to small amounts during fetal development have been documented to decrease testosterone levels.

Studies of humans exposed to high levels of dioxins and dibenzofurans have documented higher cancer mortality, adverse effects on the liver, adverse cognitive and behavioral effects and damage to the nervous system. Another typical observed effect is chloracne, a skin disorder.


Laboratory animals exposed to dioxins and dibenzofurans have experienced cancer, weight loss, skin disorders, effects on their immune system, impaired liver function, induction of enzymes, impaired reproduction (including birth defects) and gastrointestinal system bleeding.

Exposure to dioxins by any route is known to cause various systemic effects in exposed animals. The most characteristic effect of dioxin exposure in animals is the "wasting syndrome" – where the animal essentially wastes away. Some studies indicated that it may be related to an effect of some forms of dioxin on the thyroid gland.

The liver is one of the target organs of dioxin-induced toxicity in several species. Reported effects include increased activities in liver enzymes indicative of pathological changes, changes in liver weight, and necrosis (localized death of living tissue).

Hair loss, thickening of the skin, and a development of acne-like lesions were reported in some studies. The most severe systemic effects were found in monkeys.


People in the industrialized world are constantly being exposed to dioxins through its presence in food, air, water, soil and some consumer products. Scientists have shown that food is a major pathway to dioxins and dibenzofurans in humans.

Nursing infants receive the highest known intake of dioxin in the general population – through breast milk. Nursing infants take in 35-65 picograms per kilogram of body weight per day, compared to 1-6 picograms per kilogram per day for adults.

In just six months of breast feeding, a baby in the U.S. will, on average, consume the EPA's maximum lifetime dose of dioxin.

From: Chrysalis Farm – One of the Farms at Tolstoy
Growers of Organic Produce & Botanicals
Practicing Sustainable Agriculture
33495 Mill Canyon Rd.
Davenport, WA 99122
(509) 725-0610
FAX: (509) 695-6422

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