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September 2022

Nutr Health. 1992 ; 8(1): 33-43.

A new threat to public health: organochlorines and food.

Hall RH.

McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Ambient levels of persistent toxic chemicals, chemicals that persist for decades in the environment, have reached levels high enough to affect the health of children. The organochlorines (PCBs, DDT and the dioxin family) accumulate in human adipose tissue. Pregnant women pass the contamination to their fetuses. The developing nervous system is the most vulnerable. Neurobehavioral deficits, including short-term memory loss, are detected in children born to mothers at the high end of the distribution curve of organochlorines. Humans are not alone in their susceptibility to these subtle effects. Wildlife exposed to the same spectrum of organochlorines as humans suffer a variety of behavioral changes. Rats and Rhesus monkeys fed diets containing the organochlorines under laboratory conditions exhibit behavioral changes that persist into adulthood. For humans, food provides 80 percent of organochlorine contamination. Meat, fish, dairy and commercial fruit are the main sources. A vegetarian diet including unsprayed fruit minimizes contamination. The ultimate solution to this public health problem is elimination of the organochlorines from the environment.

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