How much dioxins do the Czechs eat? Toxic chemicals even after 12 years

5.4.2002 - Prague

Association ARNIKA ordered measurement of contamination of tissue of trout caught in the river Nisa in Liberec. The measurement was supposed to discover the level of dioxins (PCDD/F) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)(1). Now results of the measurement are known but not gratifying. Levels measured by accredited laboratory Axys-Varilab achieve 35,2 pgTEQ/g(2) lipid as for the dioxins (PCDD/F) and 165,9 pgTEQ/g lipid(3) in case of PCBs. "It means that when eating 200g portion of trout from Liberec one would fulfill 450-460% of the recommended maximum daily limit of dioxins intake recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), or 200% of the limit for one weak dioxin consumption recommended by the European Commission," Jindřich Petrlík, leader of ARNIKA´s Toxic Free Future campaign, commented on the measured concentrations.

The results of this analysis just confirm conclusions stated earlier by the State Health Institute concerning its analyses of selected kinds of food usually consumed by Czech people(4). Though some politicians try to convince us that environment had been cleaned from the toxic substances within last 12 years, food contamination by dioxins in the Czech Republic exceeds the limit set by the WHO. According a risk analysis worked out by the State Health Institute´s experts, quantity of dioxins consumed by Czechs in 1998 can cause approximately 270 new cases of cancer(5).

The toxins certainly must have some kind of origin. They leak from insecurely placed wastes, from untight landfills, they also leak to atmosphere during waste incineration. "That is why we try, within the Toxic Free Future campaign, to push a ratification of the Stockholm Convention through the Parliament and to make its deputies adopt a right for information about the toxics to Czech legislation. We want to make state authorities to become involved in the serious problem of dioxins in environment. It concerns for instance high PCBs concentrations in Ostrava. We further demand closing of useless sources of pollution such us incinerator of hazardous waste in Lysá nad Labem. But we know this will not solve the problem completely," said Jindøich Petrlík from ARNIKA association at a press conference today.

When we start seeking for causes of the pollution, the reply is: wrong political decisions and inconsistent work of state authorities in reduction of the toxic contamination by dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls(6). "More strict measures are being adopted quickly in the Czech Republic, under pressure from the EU," Petrlík added.


(1) Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) had been produced since 1930 as chemicals for industrial use. They were used for production of transformer and condenser oils, painting colors, plastificants (softeners of plastic products) and also added to tracing paper and ink . Their production was banned in former Czechoslovakia (in Slovak chemical plant Chemko Strážske) in 1984 after finding negative impact on human health. However, these substances are still present in transformers and condensers. They became the most problematic substance in waste.

Dioxins (exact title is polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans) are highly stable chemical substances created as a side product for instance in plants of chlorinated chemistry, during paper and textile bleaching and as a consequence of incineration of chlorinated substances.

Both polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxins are harmful for human hormonal and immunity systems. People who had been in contact with high concentrations of PCBs or dioxins face such illnesses as chloracne (a serious dermatological disease), liver disfunctions, breathing and other problems.

(2) TEQ is a toxic equivalent. Levels of concentrations of the dioxins and PCBs are counted according to toxicity coefficients of each of their congeners. Toxic equivalent equal to 1 has 2,3,7,8 -TCDD (2,3,7,8 - tetrachlordibenzo-p-dioxin). Measured concentrations are multiplied by this equivalent in order to show the revealed danger (toxicity) of substances present in it because the toxicity is significantly different between 210 dioxins and 209 PCBs and absolute levels thus were not showing anything relevant.

(3) Apart from the measurement ordered by ARNIKA, there are also results of measurements of dioxin and PCB concentrations made in another two kinds of fish - a barber from the river Vltava by Klecany (near Prague) and a bream caught in the Elbe. The measurements were carried out by laboratory within the Region Public Health Station in Frýdek-Místek and published by professor Jana Hajšlová, teacher of the Chemical-Technological University, who is involved in a longterm monitoring of toxic substances in the environment. These fish have been also caught last year. PCB and PCDD/F concentrations in these two samples, showed as a toxic equivalent, were 2-6 times higher than in a tissue of the trout from Liberec.

(4) Czech inhabitants consume 2-3 times higher quantity of dioxin substances compared to the maximum limit recommended by the WHO. High levels of hazardous substances in consumables show a lot about a contamination of the environment as a whole. Food is a source responsible for 95-99% of dioxins coming into human organism.

According to an expertise made by the State Health Institute, there were in average 8,7 pg TEQ dioxins per 1 kg of human weight/day for each Czech inhabitant in 1999, and even 12,3 pg TEQ/kg/day in 1998. According to WHO´s recommendations, daily income of these poisons into human body should not exceed 1-4 pg TEQ/kg/day.

(5) Monitoring of heterogenous substances in consumables, "human dietary exposition" - 1997 - 1999, Centre of Food Chains´ Hygiene within the State Health Institute. Theoretical estimation of increase of risk of tumorous diseases in a consequence of dietary exposition to selected chemicals in the Czech Republic. (

(6) Research of management of waste containing PCBs, carried out for the Czech Ecological Management Center (CEMC) in 1995 found that it is unknown where 40% of such waste has been finally placed. At least a rough inventory of air pollution by PCBs from energy sector was supposed to be made since 1997, according to a law. However, vast majority of energy sources has not done the measurement and was not sanctioned for that by any authority. Politicians tend to complying to the pressure from industry trying to preserve uncontrolled leakage of the emissions and management of the chemicals - according to representatives of the industry, PCBs should not be included into integrated pollution inventory.


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