In May of 1991, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a scientific reassessment of the human health and exposure issues concerning dioxin and dioxin-like compounds (56 FR 50903). This reassessment has resulted in two reports: a health reassessment document (EPA, 1994), and Estimating Exposure to Dioxin-Like Compounds [this three-volume report], which expands upon a 1988 draft exposure report titled, Estimating Exposure to 2,3,7,8-TCDD (EPA, 1988). The health and exposure reassessment documents can be used together to assess potential health risks from exposure to dioxin-like compounds. In a related area, EPA has also discussed the data and methods for evaluating risks to aquatic life from 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD) (EPA, 1993).The purpose of the exposure portion of the dioxin reassessment is to describe the causes and magnitude of background exposures, and provide site-specific procedures for evaluating the incremental exposures due to specific sources of dioxin-like compounds.

In September of 1992, EPA convened workshops to review the first public drafts of the health (EPA, 1992a) and the exposure documents (EPA, 1992b). The current draft of the exposure document incorporates changes as a result of that workshop as well as other review comments.

The exposure document is presented in three volumes. Following is a summary of the material contained in each of the three volumes:

Volume I - Executive Summary

This volume includes summaries of findings from Volumes II and III. It also includes a unique section on research needs and recommendations for dioxin-like compounds.

Volume II - Properties, Sources, Environmental Levels, and Background Exposures

This volume presents and evaluates information on the physical-chemical properties, environmental fate, sources, environmental levels, and background human exposures to dioxin-like compounds. It summarizes and evaluates relevant information obtained from published literature searches, EPA program offices and other Federal agencies, and published literature provided by peer reviewers of previous versions of this document. The data contained in this volume is current through 1993 with some new information published in early 1994.

Volume III - Site-Specific Assessment Procedures

This volume presents procedures for evaluating the incremental impact from sources of dioxin release into the environment. The sources covered include contaminated soils, stack emissions, and point discharges into surface water. This volume includes sections on: exposure parameters and exposure scenario development; stack emissions and atmospheric transport modeling; aquatic and terrestrial soil, sediment, and food chain modeling; demonstration of methodologies; and uncertainty evaluations including exercises on sensitivity analysis and model validation, review of Monte Carlo assessments conducted for dioxin-like compounds, and other discussions. The data contained in this volume is current through 1993 with some new information published in early 1994.


Dioxin-like compounds are defined to include those compounds with nonzero Toxicity Equivalency Factor (TEF) values as defined in a 1989 international scheme, I-TEFs/89. This procedure was developed under the auspices of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Committee on Challenges of Modern Society (NATO-CCMS, 1988a; 1988b) to promote international consistency in addressing contamination involving CDDs and CDFs. EPA has adopted the I-TEFs/89 as an interim procedure for assessing the risks associated with exposures to complex mixtures of CDDs and CDFs (EPA, 1989).

As shown in Table 1-1, this TEF scheme assigns nonzero values to all chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (CDDs) and chlorinated dibenzofurans (CDFs) with chlorines substituted in the 2,3,7,8 positions. Additionally, the analogous brominated compounds (BDDs and BDFs) and certain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs, see Table 1-2) have recently been identified as having dioxin-like toxicity (EPA, 1994) and thus are also included in the definition of dioxin-like compounds.

However, EPA has not assigned TEF values for BDDs, BDFs, and PCBs. In the case of PCBs, research on the applicability of the TEF approach is ongoing but there is not yet any formal EPA policy. The nomenclature adopted here for purposes of describing these compounds is summarized in Table 1-3.

table Table 1-1. Toxicity Equivalency factors (TEF) for CDDs and CDFs. table Table 1-2. Dioxin-Like PCBs.
expand table Table V3  1-1 expand table Table V3  1-2
table Table 1-3. Nomenclature for dioxin-like compounds.

The procedure relates the toxicity of 210 structurally related individual CDD and CDF congeners and is based on a limited data base of in vivo and in vitro toxicity testing.

By relating the toxicity of the 209 CDDs and CDFs to the highly-studied 2,3,7,8-TCDD, the approach simplifies the assessment of risks involving exposures to mixtures of CDDs and CDFs (EPA, 1989).

In general, the assessment of the human health risk to a mixture of CDDs and CDFs, using the TEF procedure, involves the following steps (EPA, 1989):

expand table Table V3  1-3

1. Analytical determination of the CDDs and CDFs in the sample.2. Multiplication of congener concentrations in the sample by the TEFs in Table 1-1 to express the concentration in terms of 2,3,7,8-TCDD equivalents (TEQs). 3. Summation of the products in Step 2 to obtain the total TEQs in the sample.4. Determination of human exposure to the mixture in question, expressed in terms of TEQs.

5. Combination of exposure from step 4 with toxicity information on 2,3,7,8-TCDD to estimate risks associated with the mixture.

Samples of this calculation for several environmental mixtures are provided in EPA (1989). Also, this procedure is demonstrated in Volume III of this assessment in the context of the demonstration of the stack emission source category. The seventeen dioxin-like congeners are individually modeled from stack to exposure site. TEQ concentrations are estimated given predictions of individual congener concentrations using Steps 2 and 3 above.


Users of the dioxin exposure document should recognize the following:

1. This document does not present detailed procedures for evaluating multiple sources of release.
However, it can be used in two ways to address this issue. Incremental impacts estimated with procedures in Volume III can be compared to background exposure estimates which are presented in Volume II. This would be a way of comparing the incremental impact of a specific source to an individual's total exposure. If the releases from multiple sources behave independently, it is possible to model them individually and then add the impacts. For example, if several stack emission sources are identified and their emissions quantified, and it is desired to evaluate the impact of all sources simultaneously, then it may be possible to model each stack emission source individually and then sum the concentrations and depositions at points of interest in the surrounding area.

2. The procedures and estimates presented in this three-volume exposure document best serve as general examples for evaluating exposures to dioxin-like compounds, rather than specific assessments.
This document was not generated for purposes of supporting any specific regulation. Rather, it is intended to be a general information source which Agency programs can adopt or modify as needed for their individual purposes. For example, the demonstration scenarios of Volume III were not crafted as Agency policy on "high end" or "central tendency" scenarios for evaluating land contamination, stack emissions, or effluent discharges. Rather, they were designed to illustrate the site-specific methodologies in Volume III.

3. The understanding of the exposure to dioxin-like compounds continues to expand.
Despite being one of the most studied groups of organic enivronmental contaminants, new information is generated almost daily about dioxin-like compounds. This document is considered to be current through 1993, with some information published early in 1994 included as well. Section IV of Volume I, Executive Summary, discusses research needs for dioxin exposure evaluation.


Numerous parameter values are used in this document and it is important to understand their degree of "endorsement" by EPA. The parameters can be divided into the following four classes for purposes of addressing this issue:

1) First Order Defaults:
As defaults, these parameters are independent of site specific characteristics and can be used for any assessment. Also, as first order defaults, it is felt that the values selected for the demonstration scenarios carry a sufficient weight of evidence from current literature such that these values are recommended for other assessments. Several of the chemical specific parameters, such as the Henry's Constant, H, and the organic carbon partition coefficient, Koc, fall into this category. The qualifier above, "current literature", indicates that new information could lead to changes in these values.

2) Second Order Defaults:
Like the above category, these parameters are judged to be independent of site specific characteristics. However, unlike the above category, the current scientific weight of evidence is judged insufficient to describe values selected for demonstration purposes as first order defaults. Parameters of principal note in this category are the bioconcentration parameters specific to the chemicals, such the Biota Sediment Accumulation Factor, or BSAF. This parameter translates a bottom sediment concentration to a fish tissue concentration. The science is evolving for this parameter, including thought on the extent to which BSAFs generated for one species at one site can be generalized to other sites and/or species, the differences in BSAF between column and bottom feeders, the differences between past and ongoing contamination, and so on. Users should carefully review the justification for the SOD values selected for the demonstration scenarios before using the same values.

3) Site Specific:
These parameters should or can be assigned values based on site-specific information. The information provided on their assignment for the demonstration of methodologies in this document can be useful where site specific information is unavailable. A key class of site specific are the source strength terms - the soil concentrations, effluent discharge rates, and stack emission rates. Others include physical properties (organic carbon contents of soil and sediment, climate variables, areas, distances, and volumes) and parameters for bioconcentration algorithms (yields of vegetations, cattle raising practices, fish lipid contents).

4) Exposure Parameters:
The exposure parameters have not been categorized as have the contaminant fate and transport/transfer parameters. Assignment of these values are critical as Lifetime Average Daily Dose (LADD) estimates are linearly related to parameter assignments - doubling exposure duration assumptions double LADDs, and so on. Some exposure parameters are appropriately described as first order defaults. These include: lifetime, body weights, water ingestion rates, inhalation rates, and an exposure duration for a childhood pattern of soil ingestion. All of the other exposure parameters are better described as either second order defaults or site specific parameters. All exposure parameters were developed based on information and recommendations in EPA's Exposure Factors Handbook (EPA, 1989b) and Dermal Exposure Assessment: Principles and Applications (EPA, 1992c).

The end products of the exposure assessment procedures presented in this document are estimates of potential dose expressed in mg of dioxin-like compound/kg-day. The procedures for converting these dose estimates to risk estimates are provided in a companion document on health assessment which EPA is publishing concurrently and which addresses the same compounds. It is also noted that EPA has recently focused on the indirect impacts from combustor emissions (EPA, 1993b). Much of the information in that document, such as procedures for estimating stack emissions, dispersion/deposition modeling, and fate, transport, and food chain impact modeling, coincides with information in this document.

The scope of each chapter in Volume III is summarized below.

Chapter 2,
Estimating Exposure and Risks, presents overall framework for conducting exposure assessments. It provides procedures for identifying exposure pathways, estimating contact rates and resulting exposure levels. Approaches for defining exposure scenarios are presented. Procedures for using the Toxicity Equivalency Factors in exposure assessments are discussed here.

Chapter 3,
Evaluating Atmospheric Releases of Dioxin-Like Compounds from Combustion Sources, provides procedures to estimate the emission rates of dioxin-like compounds from combustion processes and further atmospheric transport modeling procedures from the stack to the surrounding land surface. This chapter describes and demonstrates the use of the COMPDEP model on a hypothetical incinerator and lists the associated atmospheric dispersion and deposition estimates from that model exercise.

Chapter 4,
Estimating Exposure Media Concentrations, provides procedures for estimating concentrations of the dioxin-like compounds in exposure media (soil, air, water, biota) resulting from soil contamination, effluent discharges, and stack emissions.

Chapter 5,
Demonstration of Methodology, develops hypothetical scenarios and generates exposure estimates to demonstrate the methodologies of this document.

Chapter 6,
User Considerations, discusses key issues for users of the methodologies. All model parameters are listed and categorized according to the scheme noted above. Sensitivity analysis is conducted on the algorithms estimating exposure media concentrations. An exercise on estimating the releases from a bounded area of soil contamination is presented. The purpose of this exercise is to determine whether a reservoir of soil contamination would be depleted prior to an assumed duration of exposure.

Chapter 7,
Uncertainty, discusses the sources and possible magnitude of uncertainty in the exposure assessment procedures. Uncertainty and variability of fate and transport, and exposure parameters, are discussed. Modeled exposure media concentrations are compared with concentrations that have been found in the literature, and alternate modeling approaches are demonstrated and compared with modeling approaches discussed in Chapter 5 and demonstrated in Chapter 6.

  • NATO/CCMS (North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Committee on the Challenges of Modern Society). (1988a) International toxicity equivalency factor (I-TEF) method of risk assessment for complex mixtures of dioxins and related compounds. Report No. 176.
  • NATO/CCMS (North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Committee on the Challenges of Modern Society). (1988b) Scientific basis for the development of international toxicity equivalency (I-TEF) factor method of risk assessment for complex mixtures of dioxins and related compounds. Report No. 178.
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (1988) Estimating exposure to 2,3,7,8-TCDD. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Health and Environmental Assessment, Washington, DC; EPA/600/6-88/005A.
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (1989) Interim procedures for estimating risks associated with exposures to mixtures of chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and -dibenzofurans (CDDs and CDFs) and 1989 update. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Risk Assessment Forum, Washington, DC; EPA/625/3-89/016.
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (1992a) Health reassessment of dioxin-like compounds, Chapters 1-8. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Health and Environmental Assessment, Washington, DC. EPA/600/AP-92/001a through EPA/600/AP-92/001h. August 1992 Workshop Review Draft.
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (1992b) Estimating Exposure to Dioxin-Like Compounds. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Health and Environmental Assessment, Washington, DC. EPA/600/6-88/005B. August 1992 Workshop Review Draft.
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (1993) Interim Report on Data and Methods for Assessment of 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin Risks to Aquatic Life and Associated Wildlife. Environmental Research Laboratory, Duluth, MN, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. EPA/600/R-93/055. March, 1993.
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (1994) Health Assessment for 2,3,7,8-TCDD and Related Compounds. Public Review Draft. EPA/600/EP-92/001.