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Are incinerator workers exposed to PCDDs and PCDFs?
  1. M F Allam
  1. Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, University of Cordoba, Spain; fm2faahm{at}

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    Kumagai and his colleagues1 have reported that incinerator workers employed at intermittently burning incineration plants were not necessarily exposed to high concentrations of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs). The authors' conclusions were based on concentrations of PCDDs and PCDFs in serum samples of the workers.

    I have deep concerns regarding the study methodology and results which do not consider the accumulation of PCDDs and PCDFs in the adipose tissue. PCDDs and PCDFs are organochlorines with different degrees and positions of chlorination, which determine their persistence and toxicity. They are lipophilic and difficult to metabolise, and any environmental exposure of living organisms to them results in their accumulation and persistence in fat tissues.2 Meanwhile, it is feasible to use blood sera to obtain and analyse PCDDs and PCDFs. Adipose tissue organochlorines levels have been regarded as a preferred indicator of human exposure. Levels in adipose tissue are known to be higher and more representative of the cumulative internal exposure.2,3 Previously, Archibeque-Engle and colleagues4 did not find a significant relation between serum concentration and tissue residues for organochlorine compounds. Based on the lack of correlation between adipose tissue and serum, as well as an absence of some compound residues in serum, the authors emphasised that adipose tissue should be analysed in addition to serum.

    Finally, I would like to acknowledge the authors for such original subject study, which enables us to raise the profile of and discuss new hypotheses in environmental and occupational health.


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