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Dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in fish oil dietary supplements: Occurrence and human exposure in the UK

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Commercially available fish oil supplements sourced from retail outlets in the UK, as well as by mail order, were surveyed in 2000–02 for dioxin (PCDD/Fs) and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) content. Sampled products were representative of market share. The WHO-TEQ values for these products ranged from 0.18 to 8.4ngkg −1 for ΣPCDD/F and from 1.1 to 41ngkg −1 for Σ dioxin-like PCBs. The results suggest a downward trend in the levels of dioxins in fish oil supplements over the last decade, since levels for similar products ranged from 0.3 to 10ngkg −1 for ΣPCDD/F WHO-TEQ in 1996. Levels of ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) 7 PCBs in the current study ranged from 8.3 to 267µgkg −1 . Subsequent to this survey, European Union legislation has been introduced that includes a maximum limit of 2ngkg −1 WHO-TEQ for dioxins in fish oil products for human consumption. Twelve of the 33 products reported here would have exceeded this limit. Negotiations are in progress to incorporate dioxin-like PCBs into the European Union regulations. When manufacturer-recommended doses were applied to the observed levels, the estimated upper bound human exposure to dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs from dietary intake of these products ranged from 0.02 to 7.1pg WHO-TEQkg −1 body weightday −1 for adults and from 0.02 to 10pg WHO-TEQkg −1 body weightday −1 for schoolchildren. This level rises to 1.8–8.9pg WHO-TEQkg −1 body weightday −1 for adults and 1.4–14pg WHO-TEQkg −1 body weightday −1 for schoolchildren when combined with the average exposure from the whole diet in 1997. Again, subsequent to this survey, the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) revised the UK tolerable daily intake (TDI) for mixtures of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs from 10 to 2pg WHO-TEQkg −1 body weightday −1 . This is in line with the tolerable weekly intake (TWI) of 14pg WHO-TEQkg −1 body weight set by the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF).
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Keywords: Dioxins; International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) 7 PCBs; PCDD/Fs; WHO-TEQ; fish oil; polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Central Science Laboratory, Sand Hutton, York, YO41 1LZ, UK 2: Food Standards Agency, Aviation House, 125 Kingsway, London WC2B 6NH, UK

Publication date: September 1, 2006

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