Congener patterns of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, dibenzofurans and biphenyls as a useful aid to source identification during a contamination incident in the food chain

Ron L. A. P. Hoogenboom, Rainer Malisch, Stefan P. J. van Leeuwen, Huig Vanderperren, Helge Hove, Alwyn Fernandes, Alexander Schächtele, Martin Rose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), dibenzofurans (PCDFs) and biphenyls (PCBs) are still considered among the most important groups of contaminants in the food chain. Self-control by food producers and official control by authorities are important activities that allow contaminant sources to be traced and promote further reduction in food and feed levels. Strict but feasible maximum levels were set by the EU Commission for food and feed to support this strategy, as well as action levels and thresholds. When products exceed these levels, it is important to trace the source of contamination and take measures to remove it. Congener patterns of PCDD/Fs and PCBs differ between sources and are important tools for source identification. Therefore, patterns associated with different sources and incidents relating to various feed matrices and certain agricultural chemicals were collated from published scientific papers, with additional ones available from some laboratories. The collection was evaluated for completeness by presentations at workshops and conferences. Primary sources appear to derive from 5 categories, i) by-products from production of organochlorine chemicals (e.g. PCBs, chlorophenols, chlorinated pesticides, polyvinyl chloride (PVC)), ii) the result of combustion of certain materials and accidental fires, iii) the use of inorganic chlorine, iv) recycling/production of certain minerals, and v) certain naturally occurring clays (ball clay, kaolinite). A decision tree was developed to assist in the identification of the source.
Original languageEnglish
Article number141098
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date23 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • Chlorophenols
  • Congener patterns
  • Dioxins
  • Drying
  • Incidents
  • PCBs

Cite this