Residues of pesticide fumigants and toxic industrial chemicals in freight containers represent a health hazard to employees and consumers, especially since freight containers are sealed for transport and distributed widely throughout the importing countries before being opened for unloading.
We investigated 2113 freight containers arriving at the second largest container terminal in Europe, Hamburg, Germany, over a 10-week period in 2006. The countries of origin, type of contents and the pesticide fumigation history declared on labels attached to the container were recorded.
We determined that 1478 (70%) containers were contaminated with toxic chemicals above chronic reference exposure levels (RELs), 761 (36%) even exceeded the higher acute REL thresholds. Benzene and/or formaldehyde contamination was 4-times greater than for fumigants.
Our findings indicate a health risk for dockworkers, container unloaders and even end-consumers, especially as many of the cancerogenic or toxic gases elude subjective detection.
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