Dioxins and Furans

Dioxins and furans are the common names for a group of chemicals that are formed during combustion processes such as waste incineration, power generation, metal production, and fuel burning. These compounds are found in small amounts in the air, water and soil. As a result of their chemical persistence and presence in the environment, they also enter the food chain. Human exposure to dioxins and furans is mainly through the diet. The average Canadian's exposure to dioxins and furans is well below the levels that are anticipated to cause adverse effects.

Dioxins and furans are environmental contaminants, not processing-induced food contaminants, and have distinctly different chemical structures and behaviours than furan. The chemical "furan" is different from "furans". "Furans" is an abbreviation of chlorinated dibenzofurans and are chemically related to a group of chemicals called dioxins.

What is Health Canada Doing?

Health Canada monitors the concentrations of various chemicals, including dioxins and furans, in foods in its ongoing Total Diet Study surveys. As part of its risk assessment activities, Health Canada continues to assess the concentrations of these compounds in foods as well as any new research about the health effects of dioxins and furans. Work has also been done to eliminate dioxins and furans from pest control products that are used in Canada (see link below).

What Can You Do?

Dioxins and furans accumulate in the fatty portions of animal-derived foods, therefore you may wish to prepare foods such as meat and fish in ways that allow the fat to drain. Health Canada recommends that Canadians consume a variety of foods from each food group included in Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating and follow any provincial or territorial consumption advice about eating sport fish.

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