A recent global study found almost 90% of free-range egg samples from contaminated sites in developing nations exceeded the European Union (EU) maximum food limits for toxic pollutants. Plastic waste is a major contributor to the pollution.
Dioxins and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls, commonly known as PCBs, are persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, that spread easily in the environment, accumulate in the food chain, and take years to biodegrade. They are linked to health effects such as cancer, hormone disruption, and alterations on brain development. While the global Stockholm Convention has regulated these kinds of chemicals since 2004, this study illustrates that dioxins and PCBs still pose major health threats to children and families around the world. The new study comes on the heels of a report that found most countries are failing to manage PCBs, and are far from achieving the Stockholm Convention goal of safe PCB management by 2028.
Food is the most common exposure pathway for POPs to humans. People are often exposed through fatty foods such as poultry, seafood, meat, milk, and eggs. Being the cheapest animal protein source with the lowest environmental impact, eggs are an important source of nutrition for poor people around the world. Yet, at the same time, the researchers describe them as the most sensitive exposure pathway because chickens feed on contaminated soil and ash every day, and transfer POPs to their eggs. People, especially children, eating just one egg a day, can easily exceed health-based values set by the World Health Organization and the EU.
For the study, researchers analyzed 113 groups of egg samples from free range chickens living near commercial and dump sites in developing countries, using sampling data from the International Pollutants Elimination Network and Arnika, a Czech environmental non-profit. “We have been collecting egg samples and mapping hotspots for almost 20 years with the International Pollutants Elimination Network, a network of more than 120 countries around the world,” Jindrich Petrlik, the lead author and director of Arnika, told EHN.
Environmental Health News, 8-07-22