Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Health Hazard Advisory

27 Aug

In 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) published, “Persistent Organic Pollutants: Impact on Child Health”. This public health policy guidance document calls for a worldwide effort to minimize the exposures that children receive to persistent organic pollutants (POPs). The landmark WHO report can be accessed by simply Googling: WHO,POPs Impact on Child Health.

POPs are contaminants of all animal fats. This contamination has occurred throughout the world due to the release into the environment of man-made substances that are fat soluble and highly resistant to degradation by natural processes. POPs include: dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), brominated flame retardants, Mirex, Toxaphene, hexachlorocyclohexane, hexachlorobenzene, chlordane, DDT, endrin and dieldrin. In the case of brominated flame retardants, house dust and car dust are believed to constitute major sources of exposure.

“Children are more sensitive than adults to almost all dangerous substances, and that particularly is true for persistent organic pollutants (POPs).  Prenatal and early life exposure to POPs results in reduced cognitive function, suppressed immune system function and altered development of the reproductive system as well as increased risk of development of other diseases, such as cancer, later in life.”-David O. Carpenter, MD

POPs are toxic, man-made substances that accumulate to ever increasing levels in the bodies of organisms, which consume significant quantities of animal fats. Scientific knowledge supports the conclusion that POPs exposure resultant from animal fat consumption at current levels of food supply contamination imposes far more than an acceptable quantity of disease risk upon the average consumer. POPs exposure has been associated with increased risk of developing a wide spectrum of diseases and disorders, including: type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). POPs exposure has been found to impair the functioning of the immune system and the reproductive system. POPs exposure reduces cognitive function.

Minimizing POPs exposure is an important disease risk reduction strategy. You can minimize your POPs exposure by consuming little or no animal fat and regularly cleaning so as to remove dust from the house and car.


Background Information on Subjects of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Contamination of Environment and Food Supply and Damages to Health Imposed by POPs Exposure

The contamination of the global food supply with persistent organic
pollutants (POPs) began in the early 1900s.  Monsanto Corporation
began manufacturing and distributing PCBs in the 1930s.  DDT use
became widespread in the 20th century.  Use of 2,4,5-T, which
contained a large quantity of dioxin byproduct, occurred extensively
throughout the United States, Canada and New Zealand during the
mid-1900s.  Brominated flame retardants have been used heavily during
the course of the later half of the 20th century.  The feeding of
waste animal fat to food animals has greatly multiplied the quantities
of POPs in the mainstream food supply.  It is only in organic
livestock production that a prohibition against this dangerous feeding
practice exists.  Plastics production has increased rapidly during the
past 60 years.  Disposal of waste plastics via open waste burning and
incineration has created and released into the outdoor atmosphere vast
quantities of dioxins and PCBs.  As a result of these careless and
heavy uses of man-made chemical substances, the animal fat portion of
the food supply has come to  contain dangerous levels of total POPs.
This health damaging degree of POPs contamination of environment and
food supply has existed since as early as the 1960s.

POPs contamination has existed for a sufficient period of time for a
large number of people to become sick.  Those people residing in the
vicinity of POPs contaminated sites:  the GM Powertrain Superfund Site
located in St. Lawrence County, New York State on the St. Lawrence
River West of Akwesasne, the Tittabawassee River-Saginaw River
Superfund Site in MIdland County and Bay County in the state of
Michigan, the most heavily contaminated portion of the Hudson River
Superfund Site in the Town of Fort Edward in Washington County, New
York State, and the American War dioxin hotspots at Bien Hoa, Da Nang
and Phu Cat in Vietnam have received some of the heaviest exposures to
POPs due to the fact that they have breathed POPs that evaporate from
these sites in addition to having eaten POPs when consuming local fish
and wildlife.  These exposures took place in addition to exposures
received via consumption of mainstream food supply items containing
background levels of POPs.  Several of these populations have been the
object of extensive epidemiological studies.  Accidental poisoning
incidents have occurred during the past 100 years, which resulted in
the sickening of large numbers of people.  These populations have also
been studied.  The volume of scientific literature describing serious
damages to health resulting from POPs exposure has grown large.
Consensus now exists in the scientific research community that current
levels of POPs exposure for the general population are of such
magnitude that minimization of exposure is warranted.

The world’s governmental public health entities:  World Health
Organization (WHO), United States (US) Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDCP), US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), US
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Health Canada, and the European
Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Consumers have failed
to warn the general public of the avoidable POPs exposure health
hazard.  This failure has taken place due to the nearly total control
that is exerted by corporations over the world’s governments.
Obsessive interest in profit making has caused the corporate powers to
turn a deaf ear to calls from activists and scientists for provision
of such a warning.

In 2010, the WHO published, “Persistent Organic Pollutants:  Impact on
Child Health”.  This public health policy guidance document calls for
a worldwide effort to minimize children’s exposure to POPs.  Cancer
Action NY has advocated for publication of a POPs health hazard
advisory by the WHO, the Directorate General for Health and Consumers,
the US FDA, and Health Canada since 2010.  No governmental public
health entity has yet published any such document.

In collaboration with Cancer Action NY, the CDCP has recently begun to
create two documents, one on dioxins and another on PCBs.  According
to Dr. Michael Hatcher, in the CDCP’s Agency for Toxic Substance and
Disease Registry (ATSDR), these documents will present the message
that current levels of dioxin and PCB exposure are harming Americans
who consume average quantities of animal fats.  These documents are
intended for use in the education of physicians.  Upon completion of
these educational pieces, ATSDR plans to produce spin-off documents
intended for use educating the general public.  This is a slow way of
providing a warning of a major avoidable disease hazard.  It is clear
that corporate pressures are limiting the ability of the CDCP to take

Scientists and activists are not controlled by corporations.  In the
US, we enjoy freedom of speech and are committed to exercising that
freedom for the benefit of the general public.  Cancer Action NY has
published a POPs Health Hazard Advisory and placed this educational
document on the internet at the URL which follows.

Cancer Action NY continues to advocate for action by governmental
public health entities around the world to warn the populations that
they serve about the POPs exposure health hazard.  Thus far our
greatest success has been with the Albany County Public Health
Department.  The website of the Albany County Public Health Department
now presents a dioxin exposure reduction educational message.  In
April of 2011, the St. Lawrence County Legislature considered a POPs
exposure minimization education resolution that would have established
a POPs exposure minimization education project within the St. Lawrence
County Public Health Department.  That resolution was not adopted.
Nonetheless, we are making steady progress toward the day when POPs
exposure minimization education will be provided by the St. Lawrence
County Public Health Department.

— Donald L. Hassig, Director, Cancer Action NY, Cancer Action News Network; P O Box 340, Colton, NY USA 13625; 315.262.2456;