The article discusses the nature and extent of human and wildlife exposure to chemicals, especially through foodstuffs. Synthetic chemicals are present in most products that people use in their daily lives. Electrical appliances, cleaning substances, clothing, toiletries, furniture, car interiors, foods, and almost all other products used by human beings contain a certain amount of chemicals in them. Some of these chemicals have undesirable properties, such as persistence in the environment and bioaccumulation in human or wildlife bodies.
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Man-made chemicals get into the environment in various ways including industrial processes, poor waste disposals, and leaching from landfills. In other cases, the environment is exposed to chemicals through leakages or spillages during transportation, manufacture, and storage of different materials. In addition, human beings make direct contact with chemicals through inhalation or usage of substances such as cosmetics, toiletries, and disinfectants.
However, the most common route to human and wildlife exposure to chemicals is through food. The food chain is contaminated at different levels, whether directly or indirectly. The article notes that food is the most important link between flora or fauna and chemicals. The process starts with the manufacture of chemicals and progresses in a series of events that end in the presence of such substances in the blood of humans or animals. Secondary exposure occurs when pregnant mothers pass such chemicals to their unborn children through the placenta.
After chemical contaminants are released into the environment, such as through soil, water, and air, they enter animals and plants at the bottom of the food chain. Animals at higher levels of the food chain then eat the contaminated animals and plants, and ultimately the chemicals enter human bodies after the consumption of such animals and plants as food. The food chain route plays an important role in the passage of chemicals that persist and accumulate in the environment, such as brominated flame retardants, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDTs), phthalates, PCBs, and HCBs. In addition, processing and packaging may be convenient ways for the introduction of chemicals into food.
For example, greaseproof packaging materials, which are commonly used in the packaging of fast foods, contain perfluorinated chemicals that easily leak into foodstuffs and humans consume them. As such, the focus has now shifted to examining the presence of contaminants in foodstuffs. If the points of entry of the chemical contaminants into the food chain are sealed, then the safety of consumers can be improved significantly.
The aim was to carry out an analysis of chemicals that enter food due to the contamination of the environment and eventually the food chain. The focus was on synthetic chemicals that enter the environment through people’s actions, such as consuming different products and using various industrial and agricultural substances.
Chemical contaminants were present in all food items that were sampled and analysed. In addition, the World Wildlife Fund’s (WFF) bio-monitoring exercises have found the majority of the same chemicals in people and animals. This aspect underscores the strong link that food materials create between people or animals and chemicals. Organochlorine (OCPs) pesticides, such as DDT, lindane, and HCB, which are mainly used in agriculture and control of insect pests, were found in various food items including meats, cheese, butter, and fish. Pickled herring had the highest levels of OCPs followed by fruit juice.
PCBs, which are commonly used as lubricants and coolants in a variety of electrical equipment, were found in all analysed foodstuffs except orange juice. The highest levels were in fish. Interestingly, these chemicals were found in honey, butter, and brown bread. Brominated flame retardants (BFRs), which are used in textiles, plastics, and other products, were present in all food items except orange juice.
The highest levels were found in minced meat followed by Scottish cheddar cheese. Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) are used in the manufacture of different materials including non-stick coatings and waterproof treatments, and they were found in pickled herring. Phthalates, which are mainly used in the manufacture of plastics, cosmetics, and toiletries, were found in high levels in meat (ham and chicken) and dairy products, specifically cheeses.
Artificial musks, which are used as fragrance chemicals, were found in pickled herring and tuna. Alkylphenols isomers of nonylphenol (NP) and octylphenol (OP), which are used in the manufacture of detergents, were found in butter and bacon. Finally, organotins are commonly used as wood preservatives and biocides, and they were detected in pickled herring, tuna and fish fingers.
I agree with these findings as they highlight the complex chain of contamination where foodstuffs take a long journey that includes consumer products, chemical producers, humans, and wildlife. The study samples were picked randomly from supermarkets in Greece, Spain, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Poland, and the United Kingdom, which exposes the seriousness of food contamination across Europe. Nearly everyone in Europe is exposed to chemical contaminants in foodstuffs. Fortunately, the levels of these chemicals in foods are unlikely to cause immediate health complications. However, there is an urgent need to assess the health impacts of the majority of chemicals used in Europe to provide sufficient and reliable data, which can be availed to the public for safety measures to be taken.