Organic environmental contaminants

The aim of the research programme is to understand the pathways by which organic contaminants enter food, the levels at which they occur, and the mechanisms by which they accumulate through the food chain.

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins are long-lasting environmental contaminants. They are by-products of fires and some manufacturing processes. The main sources of dioxins in the diet are from meat, meat products, milk and dairy products. The health effects of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs include carcinogenicity, immunotoxicity, reproductive and developmental effects.

In addition to dioxins and PCBs there are a large number of organic environmental chemical contaminants (approximately 50,000) that may be present in food adventitiously as a result of human activity or from natural sources. These include such groups as Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, phthalates, brominated flame retardants and musks.

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