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Persistent Organic Pollutants: Dioxins and Furans

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Michigan Environmental Education Curriculum
Water Quality - Pollutant Sources and Impacts

The first two persistent organic pollutants that we considered, PCBs/PBDEs and Aldrin/Dieldrin, were intentionally manufactured to meet specific consumer needs. This is not the case with dioxins and furans. Among the most toxic chemicals known, these compounds are not intentionally produced, but rather are byproducts of chemical and combustion processes. The primary path by which dioxins/furans enter the environment is through the air, where forest fires and incineration of hazardous, medical and municipal wastes are major sources. Dioxins/furans are discharged to water by pulp and paper mills that use chlorine to make the paper whiter.

Dow Saginaw SignLike many other toxic substances, dioxins and furans, are persistent and have a tendency to bioaccumulate, making them of particular environmental significance. Studies of health impacts on humans are limited. Dioxins/furans are known to cause cancer and to disrupt reproduction and development in animals. One of the major dioxin issues in the State of Michigan relates to contamination in the flood plain of the Tittabawassee River downstream of Dow Chemical Company. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Dow have recently reached an agreement which will lead to cleanup of dioxin contamination in Midland, along the Tittabawassee River, the Saginaw River, and Saginaw Bay (see Explore).

EXPLORE:

Dioxin and the Tittabawassee - an industry perspective

Dioxin and the Tittabawassee – a government perspective

Dioxin and the Tittabawassee - a property owner's perspective

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