Plasma levels of dioxins, furans, non-ortho-PCBs, and TEQs in the Seveso population 17 years after the accident

D. Consonni, Raffaella Sindaco, L. Agnello, N. E. Caporaso, Maria Teresa Landi, Angela Cecilia Pesatori, P. A. Bertazzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The Seveso accident (Italy) in 1976 caused the contamination of a large population by 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-para-dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD). The contaminated territory was divided into three zones: A (very high contamination), B (high contamination), and R (low contamination). We report here the plasma concentrations of'seven poly chlorinated dibenzo-para-dioxins (PCDDs), 10 poly chlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs), four non-ortho- polychlorinated biphenyls PCBs (nPCBs), and Toxic Equivalencies (TEQs) in a sample of residents in the most polluted zones A and B and in a reference non-contaminated zone. Methods: From December 1992 to March 1994, 62 individuals were randomly selectedfrom the population living in zone A (No. =7) and B (No. =55). A sample of 59 subjects living in a surrounding non-contaminated area (non-ABR), frequency-matched by gender, age, and smoking history, was used as reference. All subjects were administered a questionnaire surveying demographic, lifestyle, medical history, and accident-related factors. We assayed plasma PCDD, PCDF, and nPCB concentrations by high-resolution gas chromatography/high resolution mass spectrometric (HRGC/HRMS) analysis, with results reported as pg/g of lipid, or parts per trillion (ppt). We calculated TEQs using the WHO 2005 Toxic Equivalency Factors (TEFs). Results: We found elevated median levels of 2,3,7,8-TCDD in plasma samples of subjects living in zone A (73.3 ppt) and zone B (12.4ppt), compared with residents in the reference zone (5.5ppt). In analyses adjusted for gender, age, smoking, and body mass index (BMI), none of the other congeners showed levels higher than reference in the contaminated zones. Compared with men, women showed higher levels (113%) of 2,3,7,8-TCDD and a slight elevation (17%) of TEQ for the other congeners. Age was strongly positively associated with most congener levels; TEQs for PCDDs, PCDFs, and nPCBs showed respectively 12%, 24%, and 41% increases for every 10 years of age. Current smokers had lower (from -37% to -67%) TEQ levels than subjects who had never smoked. BMIwas negatively associated with levels of a few congeners, but with no impact on TEQ values. Conclusions: The Seveso accident caused a severe exposure of the population to 2,3,7,8-TCDD only. None of the other congeners analyzed showed variation across zones. Age showed a strong positive association with TEQs for all classes of compounds (PCDDs, PCDFs, and nPCBs).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-267
Number of pages9
JournalMedicina del Lavoro
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


  • Dioxin
  • Environmental pollution
  • PCB
  • PCDD
  • PCDF
  • TEQ

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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