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Friday, 16 November, 2001, 18:26 GMT
Pollutant limits 'should be cut'
Babies may be at risk from pollutants picked up by their mothers
Experts have called for tough new safety limits on chemical pollutants that have been linked to cancer and infertility.

They say the safe limit for daily intake of dioxins and PCBs should be revised down from 10 picograms per kilogram of body weight to two. A picogram is equivalent to a billionth of a gram.

The government needs a dioxin reduction strategy and needs it quickly

Charles Secrett
However, the Food Standards Agency has admitted that about a third of the UK population may exceed this level in their daily diet.

PCBs and dioxins are by-products of fires, including bonfires, and some manufacturing processes.

They find their way into fatty foods, especially liver and oily fish, where they accumulate.

A study published in The Lancet medical journal last week found that exposure to PCBs in a mother's blood and breast milk can hinder the development of a baby's brain before and after birth.

Average intake

The average intake of people in Britain, based on 1997 figures, is 1.8 picograms per kilogram of body weight per day.

The new guidelines were issued today by the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT).

The group was asked to carry out the review by the Food Standards Agency.

Friends of the Earth today stressed that babies were exposed to far higher levels of dioxins than adults because the chemicals build up in breast milk over a woman's life time.

The environmental group called on the government to produce a national strategy to reduce levels of the pollutants, and impose a ban on new sources such as incineration.

It said other chemicals which build up in people's bodies and the environment should also be outlawed.

Charles Secrett, executive director at Friends of the Earth, said: "Margaret Beckett (Environment Secretary) and others must cut the release of these dangerous substances into the environment.

"This means a moratorium on the building of new incinerators and other sources of dioxins until food contamination levels fall below the new recommended level.

"The government needs a dioxin reduction strategy and needs it quickly."

See also:

03 Jun 99 | Medical notes
25 May 00 | Health
Dioxin exposure 'cuts boy babies'
09 Nov 01 | Health
Pollutants affect babies' brains
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