Dioxins are organic chemicals that comprise a family of ubiquitous environmental contaminants. Technically speaking, the dioxins of potential toxicological concern are polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs). They are related, both structurally and toxicologically, to polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Structures of generic PCDDs, PCDFs, and PCBs are shown in Figure 1. Due to their structural and toxicological similarity and to avoid confusion, all three related groups of chemicals are considered to represent "dioxins" for the purposes of this article. Specific chemicals belonging to this family are referred to as congeners. Collectively, there are more than 200 dioxin-related congeners, and each possesses unique toxicological and chemical properties.
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