Public concern about the adverse environmental and human health impacts of organochlorine contaminants led to strict regulations on their use in developed nations two decades ago. Nevertheless, DDT and several other organochlorine insecticides are still being used for agriculture and public health programs in developing countries in Asia and the South Pacific. As a consequence, humans in this region are exposed to greater dietary levels of organochlorines. In this review, published information on organochlorine concentrations in foodstuffs from South and Southeast Asia and Oceanic countries has been compiled. Foodstuffs that contribute to human exposures and dietary intakes of organochlorines were examined, and the data compared with those reported from more developed nations. Among various developing countries in Asia, considerable information on organochlorines in foodstuffs has been available from India since the late 1960s. DDT and HCH were the major insecticides in Indian foodstuffs. Concentrations of these insecticides have declined more than two orders of magnitude in farm products, such as food grains and vegetables, in two decades. Milk and milk products are the major sources of dietary exposure to DDT and HCH in India. The residues of these insecticides in dairy products were close to or above the MRLs of the FAO/WHO. Dietary intake of DDT and HCH by Indians was > 100 fold that in more developed nations. Sporadic incidences of greater concentrations (> 1 microgram/g) of aldrin, dieldrin, and heptachlor have been measured in Indian vegetables. Untreated surface waters could be a potential source of DDT and HCH exposure. In most Southeast Asian countries DDT was the common contaminant in animal origin foodstuffs. The higher percentage of p,p'-DDT in meat and fish from Southeast Asian countries, except Japan and Korea, indicated the recent use of DDt in vector control operations. Dietary intakes of DDt and HCH in Southeast Asia were an order of magnitude less than those of Indians but 5- to 10 fold greater than in more developed nations. In addition to DDT, aldrin and dieldrin were prominent in meat collected from Thailand and Malaysia. Aquatic food products from more industrialized countries, such as Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, contained significant levels of PCBs. In South Pacific countries, particularly in Australia and New Zealand, chlordanes and PCBs were the most prevalent organochlorines in foodstuffs. Food contamination by DDT, HCH, aldrin, and dieldrin was less than in developing countries in Asia but greater than in the U.S. and Japan. Intake of PCBs in Australia was greater than in the U.S. Meat and fish were the major sources of organochlorine exposure by Australians. Human dietary intake of organochlorines has been declining more slowly in developing countries in Asia. Current intakes were at least 5- to 100 fold greater than those in more developed nations, suggesting a greater risk from organochlorine exposure. Factors such as malnutrition, common among rural poor in developing nations, can increase these risks. Of greatest concern is the magnitude of exposure to organochlorines to which infants and children are subjected through human and dairy milk. The estimated intake of DDT by infants was at least 100 fold greater than the ADI of the FAO/WHO. In addition to DDT, excessive exposures to HCH and dieldrin may cause potential health effects in infants because they are more vulnerable to toxic effects. The design and implementation of appropriate epidemiological studies and their integration with monitoring of human, food, and environmental samples would be a major step in assessing the risks of organochlorine residues in foods and controlling or eliminating them. With the continued globalization of trade in food products, and the concomitant risk that food contaminated through point-source pollution may be widely distributed, identification of sources and their control should be matters of
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.