Dioxin, furan and PCB serum levels in a South African Tswana population: comparing the polluting effects of using different cooking and heating fuels
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In South Africa, 26–50% of households use solid fuel for cooking food and heating houses. When used as fuel, wood and chlorinated waste are known sources of polychlorinated dibenzo-para-dioxins, polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Here, we compare PCDD/F, dioxin-like PCB (DL-PCB), and non-DL-PCB (NDL-PCB) levels in serum of 693 Tswana individuals in the North West province, who either burn solid biofuels or have access to electricity, gas, and paraffin. This is the first South African study on dioxin levels in humans with more than 100 participants. Serum was pooled according to fuel use, as well as to confounding factors such as gender and age. Solid-phase extraction was used to remove the target analytes from serum, after which the extracts were further refined automatically using a combination of multilayer sorbents. Compound concentrations were determined by high-resolution mass spectrometry after high-resolution gas chromatography. Mean serum lipid content was determined enzymatically to be 5.91 ± 0.42 g/L. The PCDD/F and DL-PCB levels were similar to global concentrations reported for non-exposed adults. The mean of the total Toxic Equivalencies (ΣTEQ) was 6.9 ± 3.3 pg/g lipid and the mean NDL-PCB was 70.1 ± 42.8 ng/g lipid. The mean concentrations of the PCDDs, PCDFs and the corresponding World Health Organization–TEQ (WHO–TEQ) of the population using electricity, gas, and paraffin were greater than of those reliant on solid biomass (p = 0), whereas the DL-PCBs, their corresponding WHO–TEQ, and NDL-PCBs were greater for the population who use biofuels but not significantly so. The females had higher serum levels of the PCDDs (p = 0) and PCDFs (not significant) whereas the PCBs were higher for the males (p = 0). Breastfeeding women presented lower levels of all compound classes than their non-breastfeeding counterparts (p = 0) and older subjects manifested greater pollutant loads than the younger generation (p = 0). For our study population, being regularly exposed to the combustion of solid biofuels caused higher serum levels of DL-PCBs and NDL-PCBs but not of PCDDs and PCDFs.