Humans can be exposed to POPs and other hazardous substance through diet, occupation, accidents and both the indoor and outdoor environments. Exposure to POPs can either be a short-term exposure to high concentrations (acute) or long-term exposure to lower concentrations (chronic).
Acute exposure to dioxins and furans can occur during herbicide production, industrial accidents, chemical fires, or through the burning of waste. In addition, exposure to chlorinated pesticides can occur both from accidental ingestion of treated seeds or via poor handling or application processes. Presently, pesticide poisoning is mainly attributable to aldrin, dieldrin, HCB and chlordane.
Chronic exposure occurs most commonly via dietary exposure pathways. Due to their tendency to bio-accumulate, longer-term human exposure to the 12 POPs identified in the Stockholm Convention is generally via food. Foods containing the greatest concentrations of POPs include the fatty tissues of animals and edible oils. The contamination of food, including breast milk, by POPs is of worldwide concern.
Adapted from Stober, J, 1998. Health effects of POPs, Proceedings of the Subregional Awareness Raising Workshop on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, 11-14 May 1998