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Food Chem Toxicol. 2002 Jun;40(6):767-79.

Organochlorine chemicals in seafood: occurrence and health concerns.

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MRC Toxicology Unit, Hodgkin Building, University of Leicester, Lancaster Road, LE1 9HN, UK.


The cheap availability of chlorine gas, together with the development of industrial chlorinating procedures in the 20th century, led to the production of a wide range of organochlorine compounds many with a variety of commercial applications, including usage as insecticides and defoliants and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) used as coolants in electricity supply transformers. However, it was soon found that many of these technologically valuable chemicals suffered from a major disadvantage in that they resisted biodegradation and that the continued use of these compounds would lead to their persistence and accumulation in the environment and thus enter the human food chain. Despite regulatory bans or strict limits on usage being imposed on organochlorine pesticides in most countries, these compounds continue to be detected in measurable amounts in the eco-system including marine life. In general, organochlorine levels in fish intended for human consumption are low and probably below levels likely to adversely affect human health. Populations at higher risk than most people are those subsisting largely on fish and other marine life. Additionally, fish oils obtained from contaminated fish, if consumed in substantial quantities by infants and young children, might present potential health problems if levels are not continually regulated. Behavioral and neurological effects have been reported in children and ascribed to the consumption of PCB contaminated diet including fish. Another current major human health concern, yet to be resolved, about organochlorine contaminants in the human diet relates to the potential ability of many of these chemicals at low doses to act as "endocrine disruptors".

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