Occurrence in the Environment and in Food

PCDDs and PCDFs are primarily introduced into the environment as by-products of combustion processes. These by-products have been identified in the exhaust gases from sources such as cigarette smoke; industrial and municipal waste incinerators; power plants burning coal, oil, or wood; and automobiles. In addition to these human sources, PCDDs and PCDFs are also produced naturally by combustion in forest fires and from volcanic eruptions.

Historically, PCDDs and PCDFs have also been produced as impurities during organic chemical synthesis. The most notable and most toxic dioxin congener, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), has been shown to be produced in the synthesis of the herbicide 2,4,5-T, one of the herbicide components of Agent Orange, notoriously used in the Vietnam War. Although 2,4,5-T is now banned for use in the United States because of TCDD and other dioxin impurities, health concerns over the exposure of military veterans to Agent Orange and to TCDD continue to be raised. PCDDs and PCDFs can also be produced through the use of chlorine

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