Food pollutants and child health with special reference to the situation in the Aral Sea region in Kazakhstan

  • Rolf Zetterström


Despite all progress in child health during this century, a number of hazards, which also may cause severe consequences in adult life, still remain. Thus, it has become obvious that environmental pollutants, which are found in various food products and drinking water, constitute a severe threat to human health and particularly for young children. Among such compounds, different organochlorins, such as pesticides for the control of parasites (DDTs, HCHs), and products of industry and agriculture such as dioxins and dioxin-like compounds (PCBs) are much discussed, as well as organic mercury and heavy metals (lead and cadmium). Consequences of acute intoxications with PCB have been documented in Japan following the ingestion of rice oil contaminated by PCBs. In Sweden birth weight has been found to be reduced and perinatal mortality rate higher than expected in regions with high consumption of fat fish and in that children who have been exposed to PCBs in utero have retarded cognitive development. From the Aral Sea basin in Central Asia it has been reported that the population has been subjected to a long-term exposure to various organochlorins which in very large quantities have been distributed over the cotton fields. These compounds which are resistant in nature have entered the food chain leading to humans. As a consequence, organochlorins which have accumulated during fetal life continue to do so postnatally. The concentrations may be high in human milk. Children living in the Aral Sea region have poor health with high morbidity and mortality, high rate of chronic diseases and retarded development. They are subjected to many health hazards due to poverty and environmental pollution. By proper epidemiological studies, it may be possible to obtain accurate information about the health risks of people who are exposed to environmental pollution from organochlorins, and also to device means of improving the situation.


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How to Cite
Zetterström R. (1998). Food pollutants and child health with special reference to the situation in the Aral Sea region in Kazakhstan. Food & Nutrition Research, 130-135.