Reports of environmental problems in the former Soviet Union, including excess use of pesticides, have led to concerns about high levels of contamination in humans, but little information is available to assess whether these concerns are warranted. Samples of breast milk from 197 women from two cities in Ukraine were analyzed for p,p'-DDT, p,p'-DDE, endrin, dieldrin, heptachlor epoxide, trans-nonachlor, oxychlordane, hexachlorobenzene, ss-hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH), and 18 polychlorinated biphenyl congeners, and results were compared to previous reports from Europe. The median ss-HCH concentration was 731 ng/g milk fat, which is higher than other reports from Europe but lower than reports from other parts of the world. The median DDE concentration was 2,457 ng/g milk fat, which is higher than most but not all other reports from Europe. Concentrations of other chemicals were comparable to or lower than other reports from Europe. Concentrations from the city of Kyiv were generally lower than those from Dniprodzerzhinsk, but the magnitudes of these differences were modest.
Comment In: Environ Health Perspect. 1999 Jun;107(6):429-3010339441
Substantial environmental pollution has been alleged in Ukraine, but little information is available to allow an assessment of the possible impact on humans. To help remedy this lack of information, it was of interest to investigate whether certain polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs), or coplanar polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were elevated in people from Ukraine. Samples of breast milk were obtained from 200 women from the cities of Kyiv and Dniprodzerzhinsk; Kyiv is the capital and Dniprodzerzhinsk is a highly industrialized city. The samples were combined into four pools by city and age, and analyzed for 7 PCDDs, 10 PCDFs, and 2 coplanar PCBs (126 and 169). The total of the measured PCDDs, expressed as toxic equivalent, ranged from 5.1 to 7.6 pg/g lipid; for PCDFs from 3.6 to 5.2, and for PCBs from 11 to 18 pg/g lipid. Results from the two cities were similar; older women had slightly higher concentrations than did younger women. Levels of these compounds seen in Ukraine were similar to or lower than those seen in other recent studies from European and Asian countries.