The potential of recycled materials used in agriculture to contaminate food through uptake by livestock

Alwyn Fernandes, Iain Lake, Alan Dowding, Martin Rose, Natalia Jones, R. Petch, Frankie Smith, Sean Panton

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24 Citations (Scopus)
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The potential for contaminant uptake from recycled materials used in livestock farming, to animal tissues and organs, was investigated in three practical modular studies involving broiler chickens, laying chickens and pigs. Six types of commercially available recycled materials were used either as bedding material for chickens or as fertilizer for cropland that later housed outdoor reared pigs. The contaminants studied included regulated contaminants e.g. polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs, dioxins) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), but related contaminants such as polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs), hexabrominated cyclododecane (HBCDD), polychlorinated naphthalenes (PCNs), polybrominated dioxins (PBDD/Fs) and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were also investigated. Contaminant occurrence in the recycled materials was verified prior to the studies and the relationship to tissue and egg concentrations in market ready animals was investigated using a weight of evidence approach. Contaminant uptake to animal tissues and eggs was observed in all the studies but the extent varied depending on the species and the recycled material. PCBs, PBDEs, PCDD/Fs, PCNs and PFAS showed the highest potential to transfer, with laying chickens showing the most pronounced effects. PBDD/Fs showed low concentrations in the recycled materials, making it difficult to evaluate potential transfer. Higher resulting occurrence levels in laying chickens relative to broilers suggests that period of contact with the materials may influence the extent of uptake in chickens. Bio-transfer factors (BTFs) estimated for PCDD/F and PCBs showed a greater magnitude for chicken muscle tissue relative to pigs with the highest values observed for PCBs in laying chickens. There were no significant differences between BTFs for the different chicken tissues which contrasted with the high BTF values for pigs liver relative to muscle. The study raises further questions which require investigation such as the effects of repeated or yearly application of recycled materials as fertilizers, and the batch homogeneity/consistency of available recycled materials.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-370
Number of pages12
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date17 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019

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