Dioxins are a group of polychlorinated aromatic organic chemical compounds. They are usually divided into two families: dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDD or proper dioxins) and dibenzo-p-furans (PCDF or furans).
There are natural sources of these compounds generating, for example, from fires or volcanic eruptions, but most of these molecules are of anthropogenic nature. They are not produced deliberately, as they are by-products obtained from incomplete combustion, mainly during metal working, paper bleaching and the manufacture of plastic, pesticides and fuel oils.
PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls too are a family of aromatic organic chemical compounds characterised by the presence of chlorine. They are divided into dioxin-like PCBs and non-dioxin-like PCBs. They were used in many industrial applications due to their chemical stability and their physical properties, as they are very good electrical insulators and good thermal conductors. They were therefore widely used as additives in paints, pesticides, sealants, paints, flame retardants, etc. However, their use was banned in many countries in the 1980s.
Toxicity studies on Dioxins and PCBs proved that these compounds, even with different toxicity levels, are carcinogenic and have harmful effects on the immune, nervous and endocrine system. The potential damage to human health is amplified by their capacity to generate bioaccumulation and biomagnification. They are therefore classified as POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants), which can increase their concentration along the food chain.
Approximately 90% of human exposure to these compounds indeed comes from food and in particular from animal sources. In addition, due to their lipophilic nature, dioxins and PCBs can cross the placenta and pass to the newborn through mother’s milk.
EFSA set the tolerable weekly intake to a maximum level of 2 pg TEQ (toxic equivalent) per kg of body weight, but WHO is reconsidering the toxic equivalency factors defined back in 2005 based on new toxicity studies.
For these reasons, laws on dioxins and furans impose strict limits. The reference regulations are Regulation (UE) No 2023/915 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs and Directive No 2002/32/EC on undesirable substances in animal feed.
These regulations are constantly updated, as the limits set for those substances change on the basis of new toxicological data. Among the most recent updates Regulation (EU) No 277/2012 changed thresholds as regards animal feed.
With White Lab Laboratories, you can take advantage of an integrated consultancy and testing service to identify and quantify the presence of dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in environmental matrices in compliance with applicable regulations.
Find out the range of White Lab’s services
- Determination of dioxins and PCBs on waste, soils, water, sludge and emissions with official EPA methods through HRGC-MSMS and results expressed as toxicity factors, TEQ units, calculated with the relevant analytical-toxicological conversion factors (I-TEF, WHO-TEF, OMS-TEF).
- Qualitative and quantitative testing on the 17 dioxins (7 PCDDs and 10 PCDFs) and 12 PCBs for which WHO identified a toxic equivalency factor (TEF) as they are considered highly toxic.
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