Persistent organic pollutants, obesity and breast cancer

13 September 2015

POPs and food

Persistent Organic Pollutants and our food


Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are a group of universal chemicals that include organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These chemicals have common properties that make them invasive and persistent including lipophilicity (fat soluble), toxicity, and bioaccumulation.


OCPs include the pesticide DDT. They are deregistered in Australia however, stock remains and individuals and government agencies are storing these pesticides, until a permanent solution to manage and destroy them is developed – thus exposure is still possible.


PCB importation into Australia ceased in 1975, but their stability means they still remain in the environment today. PCBs amplify along the food chain leading to greater concentrations in animals in the highest position (we humans are at the top).


With their affinity for fat-soluble tissue, dietary ingestion of POPs is correlated with the development of obesity. In turn, obesity is linked to breast cancer risk and promotion. A recent paper suggests a causal link between POP exposure through diet and their bioaccumulation in adipose tissue that promotes the development of obesity and ultimately influences breast cancer development and/or progression.


Emerging research suggests that these toxins not only have an immediate and significant impact on our own generation, they may also promote inheritance of adult-onset disease in subsequent generations following ancestral exposure.


Links to papers:

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