Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Review of Environmental and Human Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Review of Environmental and Human Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants

Article excerpt


Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) have a very long life and they persist in the environment for a very long time and have a long life in soils, sediments, air or biota. There has been a recent upsurge of interest in the development of low cost reliable measures which are required in order to detect and trace current concentration levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) as a result of increasing levels of accumulation within the living organism, transformation as well as toxicity making it ideal to examine the impact on the environment which has been the focus of this review. There are still debates that rage around the issue including relevance of some physio pathologic effects of POPs on the human body along with epidemiological and clinical effects on the human population. Hence in this review there is examination, debating and presenting of arguments in relation to the sources, properties and types of POPs in the atmosphere along with examining the toxicity, analytical techniques and monitoring of atmospheric and biological concentration of POPs in the human population.

Keywords: persistent organic pollutants, sources, properties, atmospheric and biological concentration of POP, toxicity

1. Introduction

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) are a class of chemical compounds that are derived from a particular series or families of chemicals (El-Shahawi, et al., 2010) which are highly chlorinated and possess a molecular weight from 200 to 500 Da. Their vapour pressure is found to be lower than 1000 Pa (Ross et al., 2009). POPs have a very long life and they persist in the environment for a long time including soils, as sediments in air or biota (Kallenborn, 2006; Porta et al., 2008). There is no consensus among the academic professionals (Xie et al., 2010; Wang et al., 2012) on the exact meaning of the term persistent and how long a product should exist in the environment to be labelled as persistent compound. However, in practice, POPs are classified as compounds which can have half-life period running into many years (Xie et al., 2010).

Toxicity, high persistence and bioaccumulation ability are the factors that are the primary focus in the latest environment based studies. According to Lerche et al., (2002), POPs are among the most important subset of Persistent, Bioaccumulative and Toxic (PBT) chemicals including pesticides like y-hexachlorocyclohexane or 1,1,1 -trichloro -2,2 -die thane, polychlorinated biphenyls, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated naphthalenes, polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, polychlorinated dibenzofurans, as well as groups of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) such as polybrominated biphenyls, hexabromocyclododecane, chlorine-containing molecules like polybrominated diphenyl ethers and tetrabromobisphenol. The overall quantity of POPs in the environment increases due to the addition of PAH and BFR materials as a result of massive domestic waste disposal, pollution from chemical plants, combustion of fossil fuels, the wide-spread use of pesticides and pollution from chemical plants (Muir & Howard, 2006).

Humans are known to store POPs in their fat tissues. Animal fat tissues as well typically store polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), trans-nonachlor, dioxins, hexachlorobenzene, dichlorodiphenyldichloroethan and the hexachlorociclohexanes (Porta & Zumeta, 2002; Liem et al., 2000; Sanz-Gallardo et al., 1999; DeVoto et al., 1998; Porta et al., 2003). However, it has been discovered that humans who eat meat also ingest some of the POPs that occur within the fatty tissues of the animals (Schafer & Kegley, 2002; van Larebeke et al., 2001; Kalantzi et al., 2001; Schepens et al., 2001). Despite banning of most dangerous POPs, there are others such as DDT which is still used widely and is even today being exposed to humans through food chains.

The most important challenge to the human society is to reduce the amount of POPs contamination and use in food chain (Porta, 2002). …

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