Dioxin Levels in the Irish Environment 2006

Fourth Assessment (Based on the levels in cows' milk, 2006 survey)

Summary: The latest Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report on dioxin levels the Irish environment (based on the levels in cows’ milk in a 2006 survey) shows that all of the samples had levels well below the relevant EU limit.

Published: 2008

ISBN: 1-84095-263-6

Pages: 37

Filesize: 610KB

Format: pdf

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In line with the Environmental Protection Agency’s intention to maintain surveillance of dioxins, furans and other micro pollutants, the Agency carried out in Summer 2006 a follow-up survey to the 1995, 2000 and 2004 dioxin in cows’ milk surveys (EPA 1996, EPA 2001, EPA 2005).

"Dioxins" is a collective term for the category of 75 polychlorinated dibenzo-para-dioxin compounds (PCDDs) and 135 polychlorinated dibenzofuran compounds (PCDFs).  Seventeen PCDD and PCDF compounds are likely to be of toxicological significance. The most toxic of these is 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD).  The toxic responses include dermal effects, immunotoxicity and carcinogenicity,  as well as reproductive and developmental toxicity. These compounds, or congeners, arise mainly as unintentional by-products of incomplete or poorly controlled combustion and from certain chemical processes. 

Given that the primary mechanism for dioxins entering the food chain is through atmospheric deposition, cows' milk is considered to be a particularly suitable matrix for assessing their presence in the environment, since cows tend to graze over relatively large areas and these compounds will, if present, concentrate in the fat content of the milk.

In accordance with current practice, testing for dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)  was included for each sample. 

In view of increased international awareness of the issue of the presence in the environment of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and brominated dioxins, it was decided to take the opportunity to take some samples for these substances at the same time as the dioxin survey.   Five samples, representative of different regions, were analysed.  Each sample consisted of three pooled samples from the dioxin survey.

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