IPEN Global Egg Sampling Project:
Toxic Contamination of Free-Range Eggs in 17 Countries
In 2005, IPEN carried out a study, The Egg Report, which looked for polychlorinated dioxins, furans (called "PCDD/Fs" or "dioxins"), PCBs, and HCB contamination in free-range chicken eggs in 17 countries on five continents. The chemicals included in the study are known as unintentional persistent organic pollutants (U-POPs), because they are created as unintentional byproducts of certain combustion and industrial processes. They were chosen for the study to illustrate the need for international guidelines to help countries design facilities that avoid or minimize formation and environmental release of POPs; guidelines on substitute materials as a means of reducing and eliminating POPs; the importance of completely destroying POPs in waste before allowing them to be released to the environment; and the need for more publicly available information on U-POPs in our food, our bodies and the environment.
An additional study, The Next Generation of POPs: PBDEs and Lindane, looked for the presence of the pesticides hexachlorocyclohexanes ("HCHs," including lindane) and brominated flame retardants, such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD). These are chemicals that have the same characteristics as the original 12 chemicals already slated for elimination or minimization in the Stockholm Convention on POPs. IPEN believed that they should be added to the Convention as targets for global elimination, and most of them have since been added.
Both studies found dangerous levels of toxic chemicals in eggs that were collected near waste incinerators, cement kilns, the metallurgical industry, waste dumps and chemical production facilities. The lowest levels of contamination had more than two times the background level of dioxins. Seventy percent of the samples exceeded the EU limit for dioxins in eggs; sixty percent exceeded proposed EU limits for PCBs in eggs. Three egg samples reported in the study contained some of the highest dioxin levels ever measured in chicken eggs. Lindane, beta-HCH and the PBDE flame retardants were found in all samples. Another flame retardant, HBCD, appeared in 80 percent of the samples. The studies represent the first data about these substances in most of the countries examined.
In 2009, a third report was completed: DDT in Eggs, A Global Review. For this study, the DDT levels that were previously determined in the eggs that were collected for The Egg Report were analyzed. Additionally, new eggs from various POPs hotspots in the Czech Republic and Albania were gathered and also tested for DDT, and the information from those samples was also included in the DDT in Eggs report.