Dioxins and PCBs: kesako? | Health and Nutrition

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Will you take some dioxins or PCBs back with your eggs?

Do you remember the controversy over batches contaminated with Fipronil? As a reminder, this is an insecticide used against the red louse which was (hopefully the use of the past is justified) used on laying hens while it is normally prohibited for animals intended for human consumption. . Unfortunately, this is not the only example of contamination. In general, many pollutants including certain biocides used for feeding chickens and heavy metals are soluble in fats (see my article on aluminum). They are therefore found concentrated in the egg yolk, including organic. A survey conducted by 60 million consumers put the subject on the media table in 2019, revealing high levels of PCBs and dioxins in organic eggs due to air and soil pollution. This situation is unfortunately already well known. Many scientific publications have already objectified the problem of contamination of eggs by persistent organic pollutants and dioxins.1–4. This is “only” an unfortunately logical consequence of human pollution. Organic eggs or eggs from family henhouses are no exception to the rule, quite the contrary5–7.

PCB and dioxins, kesako?

PCBs are one of the persistent organic pollutants (POPs). These are organochlorine substances whose use has been banned since 1987, but whose effects are still present due to their very low biodegradability, they are therefore accumulated throughout the food chain (hence their name).
Used initially as lubricants and insulators, PCBs have also been widely used as adjuvants in the formulation of paints, oils, paper and even plastics. They have thus contaminated waterways, therefore fish and their predators (fish at the end of the food chain, marine mammals and humans). Food accounts for more than 90% of the contaminations of the human population, in particular foods rich in fats: fatty fish, especially from fresh water (eel in particular, barbel, bream, carp, catfish), crustaceans, milk and dairy products and eggs. Farmed salmon, especially from polluted seas (the Baltic but also to a lesser extent the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean) is particularly contaminated.
Low but chronic exposure seems to increase behavioral disorders, especially in children whose mother has been exposed during pregnancy or during breastfeeding: impaired memorization and learning abilities, decrease in intelligence quotient and visual abilities . It also appears to be involved in the onset of melanoma, breast cancer and non-Hodgkin’s malignant lymphoma. In 2013, on the basis of sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and animals, the IARC classified PCBs as certain carcinogenic to humans (Group 1). The EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) has warned of the still too high doses of PCBs found in food. A new, lower, tolerable weekly dose was thus established (2 picograms per kilogram of body weight, or 7 times less than the last recommendation of 2001).
Worrying point: animals raised in organic farming spending on average more time outside than their conventional counterparts, organic eggs and milk are therefore more contaminated with PCBs and dioxins according to the association 60 million consumers.8. There is in fact no obligation to check the nature of these contaminations in the soil during conversion to organic farming.

Like PCBs, dioxins are among the persistent organic pollutants whose lifespan is very long due to their low biodegradability. This term groups together more than 75 different molecules, the best known of which is TCDD or Seveso dioxin. Furans should also be included in this category. Unlike PCBs produced voluntarily until the 1980s, dioxins appear during fires or chimney fires, but especially during the incineration of industrial waste and household waste in the absence of filters in incinerators. The treatment of pulp of plant origin or even of the impurities present in certain herbicides are also generators of dioxins. They will then be transported in the air and be deposited in the nearby environment (water and soil).
The consumption of contaminated plants and animal products are the main sources of ingestion of dioxins by humans, in particular when the food contains fats (oils, fatty fish in particular salmon, crustaceans, milk and dairy products, eggs) . The list of the most contaminated foods was published by ANSES following the EAT2 study analyzing the levels of contamination of the French population with various pollutants.9.
Prolonged exposure increases the risk of cancer. Following the explosion of the famous Seveso pesticide plant in Italy in 1976, dioxins were classified as certain carcinogens (Group 1) by the IARC. A significant relationship has been demonstrated between exposure to old household waste incinerators and cancer risk. There is in fact an increase in the overall frequency of cancers in women, and in particular breast cancer and non-Hodgkin’s malignant lymphomas. Results also show increased risk of multiple myeloma in menten. Dioxins are also involved in endocrine, hepatic, immune, reproductive and neurological disorders.

If you want to find out your level of xenobiotics (molecules foreign to life, including pollutants), I invite you to carry out your EvoNutri nutritional assessment.

Anthony Berthou

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(1) Winkler, J. Elevated levels of dioxin-like PCBs found in organically farmed eggs caused by asbestos-cement fiber board lining materials: a case study. About. Int. 2015, 80, 72–78. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2015.03.005.
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(7) Grace, EJ; MacFarlane, GR Assessment of the bioaccumulation of metals in chicken eggs from residential backyards. Sci. Total Approx. 2016, 563–564, 256–260. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.04.128.
(8) Pangrazzi, C. Organic foods affected by pollution. 60 Million Consumers. 2019.
(9) HANDLES. Regional data EAT2 (Study of Total Food) https://www.data.gouv.fr/fr/datasets/donnees-regionales-eat2-etude-de-l-alimentation-totale/ (accessed Dec 3, 2019) .
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