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Tuesday, October 16, 2018  

Dioxins in Plastics: What Everyone Needs to KnowPublished 12/31/2007

Dioxins are a group of chlorinated organic chemicals with similar chemical structure. Dioxin is a byproduct of manufactured plastics,plastic burning, and are also found as byproducts in certain chemical herbicides. Dioxin has been linked with a number of serious medical conditions, such as: miscarriages and birth defects, reproductive and developmental defects, cancers, especially breast cancer, and immune system malfunction. Dioxin has also been linked with a variety of nervous system disorders. In the body, Dioxin is stored in the fat cells and is a powerful hormone-inhibiting agent. Serious health problems have been noted with as little as a few parts per trillion stored in body fat. In other words, our immune system is unable to defend the body against this chemical agent and therefore the smallest amount of chemical can lead to cellular damage. At the cellular level, Dioxin binds to protein in the cell and causes the cell to function differently leading to adverse cellular reactions. Most of the exposure to dioxin can be eliminated. We know that one way dioxin is released is via the burning of plastics. Therefore to reduce your chances of dioxin exposure don’t put plastic containers in the microwave. This also means that plastic wraps should not be used in the cooking or reheating of foods in microwaves (or in boiling water). The reason for this is quite simple, when the plastic wrap is heated some of it melts and drips into the food, which you ingest. The food is broken down, during the digestive process, the dioxin is released, and then the dioxin is stored in our fat cells, where it is slowly released and absorbed into our cells causing all kinds of trouble.

Surprisingly, I found that dioxin can also cause trouble when it is brought to freezing temperatures. In one study it was noted that dioxins can be released during the freezing process of plastics. I never really gave that one much thought as I, as well as millions of homemakers, will cook large amounts of food only to store them in plastic containers to freeze for another meal. I also read that dioxin is released during the process of freezing water (in plastic) bottles.

Getting back to microwaving plastics, in the presence of fat, dioxin is highly absorbable. That means if you are microwaving a piece of meat in a plastic container the chemical reaction between the high fat content in the meat, and the heating of the plastic container, will yield dioxin release into the food. You then eat the food, the dioxin is broken down, during the digestive process, and then stored in our fat cells, only to be slowly released into our body to cause damage at the cellular level.

Americans are the most wasteful of all nations combined. That being said, it doesn’t mean that as a disposable society, we can’t find healthy, safer, and more environmentally friendly ways to cook and reheat our food. Instead of cooking processed foods in their original plastic container, such as tv dinners, instant soups, pastas, and the like, remove the food from the plastic (or foam) container and transfer the food to a glass dish. Glass cooks and reheats very well without the adverse effects of dioxin (or any other chemical for that matter). Ceramic and corning ware containers are also on the safe list.

I also would recommend that you not use paper unless you know exactly where the paper has come from. For example, many paper products are made from recyclable materials, and might carry their own chemical problems. If the paper towel, for example does not state it is made from recycled material then it is safe to use to cover your food in the microwave.

We are surrounded by chemicals, and frankly there is no way around that. But with a little knowledge and savviness, you can reduce the amount of chemical exposure you and family get on a daily basis. Take the time to learn about chemical invasion in your home. Take control of your health – you will be glad you did!

Dr. Mundorff is a Board Certified Naturopath, and not a medical doctor. The information in this column is for educational purposes only and should not be used to self-diagnose and treat diseases. Dr. Mundorff is the author of several books including Take Control: A Guide to Holistic Living. You can reach her at or visit her website at


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