Dioxin and dioxin-like substances represent a collection of a large number of widely dispersed environmental organic chlorinated chemicals, many of which are unusually toxic. These substances and many related non-chlorinated substances primarily arise from the high temperature burning of organic material such as that produced by waste incineration.
Although these substances have been experimentally shown to be able to produce cancer and other serious toxicities, the evidence on their public health significance is still not clear, in considerable measure because the tests required for producing the data needed for public health assessment are so costly. With such inadequate information, the views of the scientific, regulatory, industry, and environmental citizens’ communities are often at odds. More cost-effective methods need to be developed so that this perceived public health problem can be given a proper assessment.
The theoretical principles of relatively new methods, which are based on the biological activity of these chemicals, are presented. It will be shown that one such method, which is designed to screen samples which makes use of the central event of toxicity and which is much more cost-effective, possesses the theoretical capability of providing the type of information needed for better public health assessment.