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Protect Children From Chemicals By Rotating Diet, Doctor Says

An EPA report that says dioxins, found throughout the food supply and made famous as the contaminant in Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, are "known human carcinogens," has some children's health experts concerned about the foods kids eat.

"Dioxin is a very toxic chemical," says Dr. Philip Landrigan, professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and Director of the Center for Children's Health and the Environment. Landrigan spoke to the Early Show about how to protect children from dioxins.

Dioxins, which are in the same family as pesticides like DDT, are produced by incineration of plastics that contain chlorine, and also by pulp and paper plants. The chemicals are released into the atmosphere, where they fall to the grass, are consumed by cattle, and then become concentrated in animal fat in the foods we eat.

Some dioxins are produced naturally by the burning of items like wood, so it can never be completely removed from the atmosphere, but the EPA has found that dioxin levels have come down 80 or 90 percent over the past several decades. "That's the good news," Landrigan says.

The bad news? Dioxins are more toxic than anyone initially realized, he says.

Children are especially susceptible to dioxins in food because of the amount of food they eat in relation to their body size, and also because their organs are still developing.

Landrigan advises that parents rotate their child's diet to reduce the amounts of dioxins that could be in their bodies. "Don't give a child meat every day. Give them meat one day, fish another, veggies another."

Reducing dioxins in the environment is a job that the government has to take the lead on, Landrigan says. "Realistically, we need to understand that there's only so much that parents can do here. There's a real role for government. Only the government can control the emissions of dioxin into the atmosphere. Individual parents simply don't have the power to do that."

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