Chlorinated paraffins (CPs) are mostly used in sealants, adhesives, rubber, paints and textiles. With high production volumes and widespread applications, CPs are inevitably present everywhere and are a potential source of contamination in food. As a result, the following question arises: how much CPs are present in food and to what extent is the Belgian population exposed to these chemicals through their diet?
Chlorinated paraffins (CPs), also known as polychlorinated n-alkanes, defined by an identical CxH(2x+2−y)Cly formula, are a complex mixture of thousands of isomers. They can be categorised into short (SCCPs, C10-C13), medium (MCCPs, C14-C17), and long chain CPs (LCCPs, > C17) according to their carbon chain length. Among all CP groups, SCCPs have the highest toxic potential.
Presence of CPs in food
To evaluate the presence of CPs in food purchased on the Belgian market and the subsequent dietary exposure of the Belgian population, a new analytical method for the identification and quantification of CPs was developed and validated. Next, 211 food samples were analysed using this method.
The food samples were selected according to the following criteria:
- contribution to exposure,
- risk probability based on literature review,
- food group variability and,
- expected risk differences linked to the origin of the food.
In the 211 Belgian food samples, the greatest concentrations for both SCCPs and MCCPs were observed in foods classified as “animal and vegetable fats and oils” and “sugar and confectionary”. Significant correlations between lipid content in food samples and CP levels illustrated the role of lipids in accumulating CPs within fatty food. Moreover industrial processing, food packaging and environmental conditions are each likely to contribute to overall CP level in food. Occurrence of LCCPs was evaluated on a selection of 20 samples. They were detected in 35% of this subset of samples.
Contamination through food contact materials
To determine the additional exposure to SCCPs and MCCPs from food contact materials (FCMs), migration experiments for hand blenders and household ovens were performed in accordance with the EURL kitchenware guidelines. The results indicate that hand blenders contribute an additional 11% to the exposure to SCCPs and MCCPs.
Based on the occurrence data in food commodities on the Belgian market, the exposure to MCCPs was estimated higher than the exposure to SCCPs. Children were the most exposed population group. Cereals and cereal products contributed most to the exposure. Based on the current toxicological data, these exposure levels do not trigger a health concern. It should, however, be noted that the exposure of infants was not studied.