The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and other U.S. and international agencies have focused extensive efforts on the evaluation of the potential health risks of exposures to chlorinated dioxins (PCDDs), furans (PCDFs), and related dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Extensive regulatory efforts over the past 20 years have also been made to control emissions of these compounds and thus to reduce exposures in the general population. This paper reviews the available information on temporal trends in emissions, environmental levels, intake levels through foods, and human body burdens of dioxins. This paper also provides an overview and comparison of recent hazard assessments for dioxins from U.S. and international agencies. Available data on emissions, environmental and food levels, and human body burdens of dioxins in the general population indicate a several-fold reduction in exposures and body burdens in the general population over the three decades from 1970 to 2000. U.S. and international hazard assessments concur on certain aspects, but disagree on fundamental issues including the likelihood of a threshold for carcinogenic dose-response and the degree of safety factors needed in deriving a protective exposure limit. These disagreements have significant consequences for interpreting the potential health risks of current background dioxin exposure levels. However, whatever the degree of health risk that may be associated with current background exposures, the general population is experiencing several-fold lower exposures, and, therefore, lower health risks, currently compared to 30 years ago. In light of the dramatic declines in exposure already observed, further efforts to reduce exposures through attempts to control emissions or food levels should be carefully evaluated to understand the likely efficacy of the efforts and the relative costs and benefits.