2 July 2003
Is Urged by Panel to Tell Women About Dioxins
By Elizabeth Olson
July 1 — The government should encourage women and girls to
reduce the amount of meat, whole milk and other fatty foods they
eat as a way of protecting themselves and their offspring from dioxins,
harmful residues of natural and industrial combustion, an expert
panel said today.
report by the Institute of Medicine, a nonprofit health policy advisory
body, recommended that the government do more to educate women and
girls about how to limit consumption of dioxins, which can be passed
through the placenta to a fetus or through breast milk to an infant.
has been linked to cancer and other health problems. Since its health
dangers were recognized in the 1970's, levels of dioxins and related
chemical compounds have dropped, according to a report this week
by the Environmental Protection Agency. But the pollutants linger
in the environment and lodge in the fatty tissue of farm animals
which eat grass or contaminated feed.
most direct way to reduce intake of these chemicals, the expert
panel said, is to reduce "consumption of dietary fat, especially
from animal sources that are known to contain higher levels of these
compounds." This includes meat and whole milk, products that
Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines include as saturated
fats. Current guidelines recommend they be restricted to no more
than 10 percent of a person's daily diet.
is particularly worrisome for women, who can accumulate it in their
bodies for years and then pass it on to their unborn children or
panel said the government ought to try to "reduce girls' and
women's exposure to dioxins in foods during the years well before
childbearing, so that less of these compounds accumulate in their
bodies." The panel suggested that "government-sponsored
food programs such as the National School Lunch Program should increase
the availability of foods low in animal fat." That would include
low-fat and skim milk, instead of the whole milk now provided to
millions of children. This is also recommended for participants
in the Special Supplement Food Program for Women, Infants and Children,
except for children younger than 2 years.
16-member panel held off setting any level for dioxin intake. The
panel's chairman, Dr. Robert S. Lawrence, associate dean of the
Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in
Baltimore, said that current test costs made it too expensive to
measure the levels in food. Instead, the panel urged healthier eating
while data is collected to clarify the health risks.