Reassessment of dioxin exposure points to fish oil concerns

Official estimates of human intakes of "dioxin toxicity" increased by 60% in May after the Department of Health (DoH) recognised that PCBs can have similar toxic effects to dioxins. The announcement has refocused attention on the very low safety margins for exposure to dioxins and PCBs, particularly for breast-fed babies. Despite the concern, the DoH has declined to act on new evidence that fish oil supplements may cause many people, and especially children, to exceed even the most conservative tolerable limits - contradicting its own earlier advice.

PCBs were manufactured for use as dielectric fluids and fire retardants until evidence of their environmental persistence and toxicity led to a phase-out of new uses ending in the 1980s.

Some PCBs have similar toxicological properties to chemically related dioxins and furans - the chlorinated by-products of combustion and chemical processes. Both groups of compounds are suspected of causing cancers, reduced fertility and immunological, neurological and hormonal changes.

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