My family is not vegan. We’re not even completely vegetarian. I serve the occasional organic, grass-fed hamburger, and I let them order conventional burgers in restaurants, if they want to. But I let my kids know that we eat very little meat—living a semi-vegetarian life—for one important reason: Dioxins.
Now you may not have heard much about this group of roughly 75 related chemicals—unless you were an early adopter of alternative feminine hygiene products that touted their avoidance of the stuff.
But I digress. As a parent, these are a few facts you need to know.
- My family is not vegan. We’re not even completely vegetarian. But we eat very little meat—living a semi-vegetarian life—for one important reason: Dioxins. Dioxins are primarily created during manufacturing that involves chlorine.
- Nearly all Americans have measurable levels of dioxins in their bodies, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program.
- Dioxins are a human carcinogen and endocrine disruptor which can damage the brain and central nervous systems; this fact has been verified by many organizations, most notably the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.
- According to the Institute of Medicine, since dioxins accumulate in the body over a person’s lifetime, efforts to keep exposures low should begin in pregnancy and childhood; this is particularly important for girls, who will pass dioxins in their bodies on to their children.
I’m telling you. This stuff is serious. But dioxin is also fairly easy to avoid. Since 95% of human exposure comes from animal fat, simply:
- Eat less meat—go semi-vegetarian!
- When you do, remove as much fat as possible before cooking.
And while organic meats are not any less likely to contain dioxins, they may contain fewer pesticides and other hormone disrupting chemicals.
Meanwhile, vote with your wallet: Avoid supporting companies that depend on manufacturing processes that produce dioxin by reducing your purchases of pesticides, chlorinated chemicals and bleached paper and/or cotton products. If we all boycott, sooner or later the companies will have to start manufacturing better.
Then those dirty dioxins will be a thing of the past. As semi-vegetarianism may be the future.