AsianScientist (Sep. 16, 2011) – DDT, the pesticide that was banned almost thirty years ago, is still widely found in human bodies, says Professor Tze Wai Wong, an environmental epidemiologist and public health and occupational physician of The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
In a study of 146 human milk samples, Prof. Wong’s team detected contaminants such as DDT, dioxins, organochlorines, and other banned pesticides that were once widely used in agriculture.
These findings were reported at the Clean Up 2011 Conference in Adelaide this week.
“Finding them in human milk indicates that these pollutants are still present in food chain, which means that they’re highly persistent and have a slow decline rate, or, worse, they are still being used in some countries in food production – neither of which is good news for consumers,” Wong said.
Typically, human uptake of dioxins and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) occurs by eating contaminated food products in areas with heavily polluted soil and water. Dioxins can also enter the body through contaminated air.
Countries that incinerate their waste, like Japan or China, are particularly susceptible to dioxin contamination of food as it is often released through burning. Nations that produce more industrial waste are also more likely to contaminate marine products when the waste is dumped into the ocean.
Communities that consume a large amount of seafood, dairy products, cattle, and poultry may also have high concentrations of DDT as animals tend to bioconcentrate these toxins.
“In this case, Western Europe, Scandinavia and Japan are particularly at risk,” he said.
To address the concerns of contaminants in the food chain, Prof. Wong recommended increased vigilance in food production, and also when making food purchase decisions.
He advised that, before replacing old or banned chemicals with alternatives, industry consults with health researchers about their effects on the human body.
Finally, he highlighted the need to re-evaluate current methods of waste disposal, and their possible impact on human and environmental health.
“Eventually, everything that we use has to end up somewhere. We need to make sure that the human body doesn’t end up as the ‘last stop’ for toxic compounds,” he concluded.
Source: CRC CARE.
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