Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and furans (PCDD/Fs) are organic chemicals of suspected extreme toxicity. PCDD/Fs are ubiquitous in the environment and relatively enriched in sewage sludges. The deliberate application of sewage sludge to agricultural land can therefore potentially increase exposure of the human population to these compounds via transfers through the foodchain. This paper presents a protocol for assessing the background human exposure to all seventeen 2,3,7,8-substituted PCDD/Fs for which toxic equivalent factors (TEFs) are available. Background daily human exposure in the UK to 2,3,7,8-T4CDD and I-TEQ are calculated to be 0·0239 ng and 0·203 ng, respectively. The potential increases in crop plant and livestock tissue PCDD/F concentrations, and hence in human exposure, following applications of sewage sludge to agricultural land are quantified for different sludge application scenarios. The key role of PCDD/F transfer into livestock via ingestion of sludge adhered to vegetation in determining increases in human exposure is demonstrated.