Trends in Dioxin and PCB Concentrations in Meat Samples from Several Decades of the 20th Century

Data from several studies suggest that concentrations of dioxins rose in the environment from the 1930s to about the 1960s/70s and have been declining over the last decade or two. The most direct evidence of this trend is lake core sediments, with some other evidence from older vegetation, soil, and sludge samples. It has been generally assumed, but not empirically demonstrated, that dioxin levels in the human diet follow the same general pattern. Pinsky and Lorber (1998) investigated this possibility using body burden data for 2,3,7,8-TCDD from the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, combined with simple first-order, single-compartment pharmacokinetic modeling. Using a Bayesian statistical approach, they back-calculated doses of 2,3,7,8-TCDD through the 20th century. Their best-fit 2,3,7,8-TCDD temporal dose regime showed low doses at the beginning of the century, rising to a peak in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and then dropping to current doses. Their predicted peak dose of 2,3,7,8-TCDD was up to an order of magnitude higher than current doses. The study of this paper takes this general investigation one step further. Exposures to dioxin occur primarily through food consumption, and in particular, through animal fat consumption. If exposure was higher in earlier decades of the 20th century, it should be reflected in higher animal fat concentrations of these compounds. Fourteen preserved meat samples from various decades of the 20th century were obtained and analyzed for the 17 2,3,7,8- substituted dioxin and furan congeners, as well as for 7 dioxin-like coplanar PCBs. This paper examines trends from the analysis of these 14 samples.


Winters, D., S. Anderson, M. Lorber, J. Ferrario, AND C. Byrne. Trends in Dioxin and PCB Concentrations in Meat Samples from Several Decades of the 20th Century. Organohalogen Compounds 38:75-78, (1998).