How PCB and dioxin get into food
The dioxin scandal is expanding: after the dioxin discoveries in North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony, dioxin-contaminated eggs have now been discovered in the federal states of Brandenburg and Rhineland-Palatinate. It is still not clear to the consumer protection authorities how the exceeded limit values in the eggs came about.
The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) emphasizes that an “acute health risk” cannot be assumed for a small amount of dioxin or the dioxin-like substance PCB in food. Environmentalists, on the other hand, hold that if even small amounts of the toxic substances are continuously ingested over a longer period of time, long-term health consequences threaten, since the half-life lasts up to 30 years. The reason for this is the deposit of the hardly degradable dioxin in the fat tissue of the human body. Dioxin is suspected of provoking cancer. However, since the immediate consequences are only visible at extremely high doses, relationships are difficult to establish because cancer usually does not develop until years later.
PCB eggs also in Brandenburg
As reported by the Ministry of Consumer Protection of the State of Brandenburg in Potsdam, about 10,800 hen's eggs were delivered from a large egg producer in Lower Saxony to an egg marketing company in the Dahme-Spreewald district via a wholesaler in North Rhine-Westphalia. According to the authorities, the contaminated eggs have come on the market and have already been sold. According to the Brandenburg Ministry of Health "there is no immediate risk to health for consumers". Consumers who have already bought the eggs with the stamp number 0-DE-0357661 should immediately dispose of them and never eat them.
Other finds in Rhineland-Palatinate
Infested eggs were also discovered in Rhineland-Palatinate. The chicken eggs contaminated with PCB come from laying hens in Lower Saxony, as a spokesman for the Rhineland-Palatinate State Investigation Office in Koblenz explained. The eggs with the stamp numbers 0-DE-0357661, 1-DE-0354451, 1-DE-0354452, 1-DE-0354453 and 1-DE-0352691 are affected. If eggs have already been bought with the manufacturer codes, they can be returned to the supermarkets for a refund of the purchase price. So far it has not been possible to find out how the pollutants got into the eggs of the farms concerned. An evaluation by the State Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety in Oldenburg was prepared with around 220 eggs from two conventional chicken farms and an organic farm from the Aurich district.
PCB suspected of cancer
PCB damages the nervous system, affects the immune system and causes cancer. PCB is a dioxin-like substance. The collective term "polychlorinated biphenyls" includes 209 known pollutant variants. The structure of some of these substances is similar to that of the highly toxic dioxins. Therefore, they are also called "dioxin-like" in the media and by the consumer protection authorities. The effects are similar in the human body and can cause corresponding damage. The Federal Environment Agency had to admit that the PCB was very "probably carcinogenic". In animal studies, scientists have determined that the toxic substances lead to infertility, impair the immune system, damage nerve cells and significantly disrupt the hormonal balance. In conclusion, however, it was not possible to determine to what extent PCB or dioxin actually reacts in humans. However, it is likely that the negative effects are at least similar.
PCB banned in industry since 1989
The toxins have been manufactured in industry since 1929 and have been widely used due to their flame-retardant and non-electrically conductive ability. For example, the materials are used in hydraulic systems, capacitors, transformers or as plasticizers in paints, joint sealants and plastics. In Germany, the use of PCB has been banned for all industrially produced variants since 1989. However, because the contaminated sites are often improperly stored, the toxins spread in the environment. To date, higher levels of pollution can also be found in the air, mostly in the vicinity of industrial areas.
PCB has a high half-life
Because PCB and dioxin are hardly decomposed by biological processes, they get into the bodies of animals and humans, where they are primarily deposited in the fat cells. PCB can make enormous stretches through the air and water. So it is not uncommon that the toxic substances can also be detected in fish or arctic animals. The Hamburg Rubner Institute (MRI) recently reported that environmental toxins and dioxins can always be found in edible fish. Samples in rivers in Lower Saxony had recently identified particularly severe environmental pollution in eels and bream. In the rivers of the Aller, Elbe and Weser, experts from the Ministry of the Environment found not only the pollutant dioxin but also the toxic compound of the PCB. The limit values for hexachlorobenzene, HCH, DDT and metabolites were significantly exceeded in around half of all eels examined from the Elbe. "In the eel, the load fluctuates greatly. PCBs are released from sediments primarily as contaminated sites in waters, and they are contaminated to different extents." explained Michael Haarich from the Institute for Fisheries Ecology at the Von Thünen Institute in Hamburg. High-fat fish such as herring or eel are particularly affected today.
Limit values are often exceeded in meat, fish, eggs and milk
The limit values for fish, meat, eggs and milk are often exceeded. Since the pollutants mostly occur in combination, there is a so-called total limit for dioxin and PCB pollution. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), people should not consume more than one picogram (pg, one trillionth of a gram) of dioxins and PCBs per kilogram of body weight every day. The current intake is exceeded many times within the EU. An EU commission therefore set a guideline value of 14 pg per kg body weight. This is an average of two picograms a day.
Limit values were exceeded six times
The EU daily dose also explains the limit value for food. Therefore, according to the guideline, eggs may contain five picograms of dioxins and PCBs per gram per egg fat. But this also means that when you eat an egg, the daily dose is already more than double. The currently contaminated eggs exceeded this limit six times.
Nevertheless, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) calms the population. Although the limit values do not indicate that a permanent consumption of contaminated eggs is excluded, "short-term consumption of eggs from the current case is unlikely to pose a health risk to consumers". (Sb)
Circles withheld information about PCB eggs
Dioxin eggs also in Lower Saxony
Dioxin in organic eggs: causes still unknown
Easter with dioxin eggs from the organic farm
Dioxin eggs may have been on the market
Health risk from dioxin eggs
Image: wrw / pixelio.de