Eat fewer animal products "The highest levels of dioxins are found in diet," says Rier, now an international private environmental consultant. Dioxin residue from incinerators can waft through the air to grazing lands, where it is consumed by animals and stored in their fat. "Ninety percent of our personal exposure to dioxin comes through meat and dairy products," says Castrodale. Her advice: "Make sure they are low-fat and come from organically fed cows or animals." Beware of eating fish from lakes and rivers in industrial areas and reduce your exposure by broiling, grilling, or baking skinned and trimmed fish on a rack so the fat drips away. Buy smaller freshwater fish; they are less toxic than larger ones. And stay away from deep-frying: Frying seals pollutants from the fat into the fish. (For tips on eating less meat, check out Raising Vegetarian Babies and Children.)
Consume local products Globalization means a wider variety of foods at your market. But it also means foods may be produced under conditions that aren't as safe as they are here—allowing use of DDT or other dioxin-contaminated pesticides on fruits and vegetables.
Wash your produce Dioxin particles in the air can settle on fruits and vegetables, so rinse skins thoroughly. Peel waxed fruits and vegetables such as apples and cucumbers; contaminants can get sandwiched under the wax. Choose organically grown produce when possible, but still wash it.
Read labels To keep toxins out of your home, peruse product labels, especially chemical labels. Avoid products with chemical compounds that have chloro as part of their name. These include chlorophenol weed killers, such as 2,4-D (used by many commercial lawn services) and some flea sprays for pets. Never use or dispose of old insecticides and herbicides yourself; call your local waste-collection agency about disposal.
Cultivate your garden carefully To minimize exposure to poisons that may be in the soil (especially if you live near farmlands, old paper mills or other factories), wear a face mask while digging, keep soil moist to control dust, wear clothing and shoes designated for garden use only, and shower when you're through gardening.
Relax about household products Industrial bleaching processes—such as those used in making paper, coffee filters, and the like—used to be a major source of dioxin. Not anymore, Dr. Birnbaum says: "There is no or very little dioxin residue in paper products these days. Industry uses a different process now." Nor, she adds, should consumers worry about dioxin exposure from household bleach or the chlorine in swimming pools. Several studies have also found that tampons pose no dioxin hazard. "I would be far more worried about my food than my tampons," Rier says. In fact, a study by Yale researchers found a lower rate of endometriosis among tampon users.