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Indian eggs contain toxic elements

Smuggled in unchecked and consumed widely in country; a major source of health hazard

Dioxin and hazardous toxic chemicals have been found in the chicken eggs in India and seventeen other countries around the globe. The result comes from a testing report carried out by International POPs Elimination Network -- IPEN. IPEN, International POPs Elimination Network, consists of non-governmental organisations working on fulfilment of goals adopted by the Stockholm Convention on POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants). The aim of IPEN is to campaign for a ban and elimination of toxic substances (e.g. aldrin, dieldrin, endrin, DDT, chlordan, heptachlor, hexachlorbenzen, mirex, toxaphen, PCBs and dioxins). IPEN-participating organisations are currently sampling chicken eggs in countries worldwide. "Itís a high alert for Bangladesh also, because a huge amount of eggs enters the country from India through smuggling," Dr. Hossain Shahriar, Executive Director, Environment and Social Development Organisation (ESDO) told The Independent yesterday.

According to information collected from the border region of Bangladesh, more than sixty per cent of chicken feeds and eggs come from India through smuggling. The Indian prices of these items are lower than that of Bangladesh, he added. However, the egg prices in India (border areas) are between Rs 12 and Rs 16 per dozen. In Bangladesh it is between Tk 45 and Tk 54. As part of IPENís worldwide action against POPs, the Environment and Social Development Organisation, Dhaka, has been conducting a study on country situation on POPs and Hot Spots. As part of the study, it has closely monitored the egg situation.

The study said that free-range chicken eggs collected near the Queen Mary's Hospital, Lucknow Medical Waste Incinerator in Uttar Pradesh, India, showed high levels of dioxins and PCBs. Dioxin levels exceeded background levels by more than 16-fold and were five and half times higher than the European Union (EU) dioxin limit for eggs. Levels of PCBs exceeded proposed regulatory limits by 4.7-fold. This study is believed to represent the first data about POPs in chicken eggs from India. The report shows the main source of dioxin and other toxic chemical is the chicken feeds. Mostly the feeds are produced and processed by chemicals and organic compounds. In India and Bangladesh there are huge amounts of chicken feeds ingredients comprising dry fish (which is processed by DDT and toxic chemicals like hexachlorobenzene and lindane).

The eggs have been tested for dioxins, furans, PCBs, hexachlorobenzene and lindane content. Eggs where chosen as they are a common food in every part of world and symbolise fresh life. Perfectly safe chicken eggs should contain zero level of these chemicals. Of the samples collected from 20 countries, those from 18 have been found positive. The countries include India, Senegal, Mexico, Tanzania, Belarus, Czech Republic, Kenya, Slovakia, Philippines, USA, Pakistan, Uruguay, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Mozambique, Russia , Egypt and Turkey.

IThe eggs have been tested for dioxins, furans, PCBs, hexachlorobenzene and lindane content. Eggs where chosen as they are a common food in every part of world and symbolise fresh life. Perfectly safe chicken eggs should contain zero level of these chemicals. Of the samples collected from 20 countries, those from 18 have been found positive. The countries include India, Senegal, Mexico, Tanzania, Belarus, Czech Republic, Kenya, Slovakia, Philippines, USA, Pakistan, Uruguay, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Mozambique, Russia , Egypt and Turkey.

Dioxins and furans are organic pollutants unintentionally produced through thermal processes as by-products that are extremely persistent in nature. These chemicals are known to be highly toxic to animals and humans. Dioxins and furans emitted to the environmental compartments such as air, water and land were identified in accordance with the classification provided in the UNEP tool kit. The report said there are 10 sources of dioxins and furans emissions, which are categorised as 1.Waste incineration, 2. Ferrous and non-ferrous metal production, 3. Power generation and heating, 4. Mineral products, 5.Transport, 6. Uncontrolled combustion processes, 7. Production of chemicals and consumer goods, 8. Disposal/landfill, 9. All kinds of polythene and polymer process/heating and burning, 10. Unplanned production and process of food and feeds.

India signed the Convention in 2002 but has not ratified it. The Convention mandates parties to take specific actions aimed at eliminating these pollutants from the global environment.

"We view the Convention text as a promise to take the actions needed to protect Indian and global publicís health and environment from the injuries that are caused by persistent organic pollutants, a promise that was agreed by representatives of the global community: governments, interested stakeholders, and representatives of civil society. Environmentalist call upon Indian governmental representatives and all stakeholders to pursue ratification of this important treaty, honour the integrity of the Convention text and keep the promise of reduction and elimination of POPs. Bangladesh also signed the Convention in 2002 and is moving slowly to ratify it," Dr Shahriar said (S. Begum, Independent, August 10, 2005).

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