U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


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Date of this Version



Published in The Science of the Total Environment 288 (2002) 81–95.


Empirical evidence suggests that exposure of Americans to dioxin-like compounds was low during the early decades of the 20th century, then increased during the 1940s and 1950s, reaching a peak in the 1960s and 1970s, and progressively decreased to lower levels in the 1980s and 1990s.Such evidence includes dioxin analysis of carbon-dated sediment cores of lakes and rivers, preserved meat samples from different decades of the 20th century, and limited body burden measurements of dioxin-like compounds. Pinsky and Lorber (1998) summarized studies measuring 2,3,7,8-TCDD in blood and adipose tissue, and found a range of 10–20 pg/g (ppt) lipid during the 1970s, and 2–10 ppt lipid during the 1980s.This study reviews body burdens of dioxin toxic equivalents, TEQs, to find a range from approximately 50 to 80 ppt lipid during the 1970s, 30–50 ppt lipid during the 1980s, and 10–20 ppt lipid during the 1990s (TEQs comprised of the 17 dioxin and furan congeners only). Pinsky and Lorber (1998) investigated historical exposure trends for 2,3,7,8-TCDD by using a single-compartment, first-order pharmacokinetic model.The current study extends this prior effort by modeling dioxin TEQs instead of the single compound, 2,3,7,8-TCDD. TEQs are modeled as though they were a single compound, in contrast to an approach where the individual dioxin and furan congeners are modeled separately.It was found that body burdens of TEQs during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s could be modeled by assuming a historical dose which began the century at low levels of approximately 0.5 pg TEQ/kg/day, rose during the middle decades of the 20th century to over 6 pg TEQ/kg/day, and declined to current levels of approximately 0.5 pg TEQ/kg/day. Trends in individual and population body burdens of TEQs are also investigated using this PK modeling framework. A key uncertainty of this effort — assuming that TEQs behave as though they were a single compound — is discussed and analyzed.