Toxic Eggs

Posted on 17 May 2005

‘New research reveals alarmingly high levels of toxic chemicals in free-range hens’ eggs
‘New research reveals alarmingly high levels of toxic chemicals in free-range hens’ eggs
‘Go to work on an egg’ was a UK advertising slogan coined to demonstrate eggs’ healthy properties, with free-range eggs the best option of all. Now, new research from 17 countries worldwide has found that even free-range eggs contain alarming levels of some of the most toxic chemicals.

New research from the International POPs* Elimination Network (IPEN) has revealed alarming levels of highly toxic chemicals in free range hens’ eggs from 17 countries**. The IPEN analysed eggs collected near waste incinerators, cement kilns, waste dumps and chemical production plants to see if chemicals from these sites were finding their way into hens and their eggs near the sites.

"Free-range eggs are a way to monitor the environment", explained Dr Digangi, one of the scientists who conducted the studies. "The fat content of eggs makes them appropriate for analysing chemicals that dissolve in fat".  

Shocking findings – the highest ever level of dioxins in eggs
IPEN found that the eggs from 70% of the sites contained dioxins above the EU limit for dioxins in eggs, and 60% exceeded the proposed EU limits for PCBs in eggs. Eggs from Egypt contained the highest levels of dioxins ever measured in chicken eggs. 

European countries were also on the eggs’ ‘danger list’. Hens’ eggs from two new European Member States – the Czech Republic and Slovakia – had levels above the specified European dioxin levels, with Slovakian eggs almost three times over the limit. Eggs from Kovachevo in Bulgaria contained dioxins that exceeded the European Union limit by a factor of more than 20.
This was the first time studies about the presence of these chemicals had been carried out in many of these countries, and shows the lack of information about POPs pollution. While these studies found that unintentionally produced substances were escaping into the environment, they demonstrate the need for close examination of all chemicals that are produced, as proposed under REACH. "Studies like this demonstrate the importance of REACH for ensuring that substances with very persistent and very bio-accumulative properties are subject to close examination and authorisation so that human health and the environment are properly protected" said Dr Digangi.
Every single egg
that was analysed contained the flame retardants lindane, beta-HCH and PBDE. Another flame retardant, HBCD, was found in 80% of all eggs.
Commenting on the findings, WWF’s DetoX campaign leader Karl Wagner said, "When even free-range eggs contain such high levels of chemicals, this shows that chemical contamination is totally pervasive. We must have a strong REACH; otherwise there will be no way to prevent the use of harmful chemicals. Without it we will not be able to trust the food we eat".
* Persistent Organic Pollutants
** Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Egypt, India, Kenya, Mexico, Mozambique, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Senegal, Slovakia, Tanzania, turkey, Uruguay and the United States.

For more information: 
Julian Scola, Communications Manager
WWF DetoX Campaign
Tel: +32 2 743 8806

Without a strong REACH, we will not be able to trust the food we eat.
© WWF/Andrew Kerr