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From Hamtramck, Michigan, USA:

Back in 1996 the following Q and A appeared. Considering the recent interest in dioxins and some correlations to diabetes, would you still say that diabetes probably has nothing to do with dioxin exposures?

We live downwind from two major dioxin sources, a large regional medical incinerator with a long and terrible record of violations and poor performance, and the other is the country's largest municipal waste incinerator that draws from a market that does not have any sort of active recycling. I also just learned that our small community of about 20,000 has an extremely high rate of diabetes. Please give this serious consideration for this is how these cluster connections are often realized.

It may be that the general population is little affected by dioxins but how about high exposure communities? Could dioxin be a contributing cause to our high rate of diabetes?

Question: Is diabetes so prevalent because xenoestrogens, like dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, have contaminated the food supply in the United States and increasingly in the industrialized world?

Answer: Probably not. Your concerns are not shared by most doctors and patients with diabetes.


Your question raises a number of issues and of course the first is the validity of the assumption that your small community really does have 'an extremely high rate of diabetes'. If you remember all the arguments over the incidence of leukemia in children living near high tension overhead cables, they raised complex epidemiological challenges.

Be that as it may, most of the rather sparse literature on the subject remains ambivalent about any association between dioxin and diabetes. There is however one paper by Hendikson GL and others in Epidemiology, Vol 8., page 252, 1997, which you might be interested in looking at in your nearest medical library. Very briefly this was a report on the results of an Air Force study of nearly a 1000 veterans who had been involved in spraying Agent Orange, contaminated with dioxin, as a defoliant in the Vietnam war. Compared to an equivalent number of veterans who were not exposed there was a small but significant increase in the incidence of diabetes.

At the present time I think you would still have to conclude, despite the above evidence, that dioxins are not an important contributor to the increase in many forms of diabetes in the industrialized world.


Original posting 15 Sep 1998
Posted to Research: Causes and Prevention


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