Dioxin Levels in Ireland Well Below EU Limits

The latest Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report on dioxin levels in the Irish environment shows that the dioxin levels in all of the samples were well below the relevant EU limits. The report also shows that dioxin levels measured in this survey compare favourably with those taken from similar surveys in the EU and other countries. The report is based on dioxin levels measured in cows’ milk in a 2009 survey.

Commenting on the results, Dr Colman Concannon, Regional Chemist, EPA Office of Environmental Assessment, says: “The concentrations of dioxins were low by international standards and comparisons. A total of 37 samples were taken and the average level was less than 10% of the EU limit. This is the seventh such survey undertaken by the EPA since 1995 and the results are in line with the earlier studies. The survey confirms the continuing low levels of dioxins and dioxin-like substances in the Irish environment.”

In 2009, the survey included measurement of dioxin levels in the area of County Carlow near where the feed contamination incident occurred in 2008. No elevated levels of dioxins were recorded.

The principal mechanism for the entry of dioxins into the environment in Ireland is by low-level emissions from multiple combustion sources to the atmosphere, with subsequent deposition onto vegetation such as grass. Any dioxins on grass ingested by cows tend to concentrate in the milk fat. Hence, sampling for dioxin levels in the milk of grazing cows is the approach adopted.

The survey was carried out in June and early July 2009, during the peak outdoor grazing season, by taking a series of milk samples mainly from representative regional dairies. Additional samples were also taken from localities that might be seen as areas of potential risk of raised dioxin levels.

In view of the increased international awareness of the presence in the environment of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and brominated dioxins (PBDD/PBDF), a broad range of these substances was also tested in the survey. However, only Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) were detected. The range for Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) (5 samples) was 65 to 332 ng/kg fat with a mean of 143 ng/kg fat, in line with the levels found in the three previous surveys in 2006, 2007 and 2008. These levels are relatively low by international comparisons.

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