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The researchers are working in a chemical laboratory.

Of most concern for health are naturally occurring toxins and environmental pollutants.

  • Naturally occurring toxins include mycotoxins, marine biotoxins, cyanogenic glycosides and toxins occurring in poisonous mushrooms. Staple foods like corn or cereals can contain high levels of mycotoxins, such as aflatoxin and ochratoxin, produced by mould on grain. A long-term exposure can affect the immune system and normal development, or cause cancer.
  • Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are compounds that accumulate in the environment and human body. Known examples are dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which are unwanted by-products of industrial processes and waste incineration. They are found worldwide in the environment and accumulate in animal food chains. Dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and cause cancer.
  • Heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury cause neurological and kidney damage. Contamination by heavy metal in food occurs mainly through pollution of water and soil.
  • Other chemical hazards in food can include radioactive nucleotides that can be discharged into the environment from industries and from civil or military nuclear operations, food allergens, residues of drugs and other contaminants incorporated in the food during the process.