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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Environmental contaminants in the food chain.

Both terrestrial and aquatic food chains are capable of accumulating certain environmental contaminants to toxic concentrations. This article focuses on the aquatic food chain because we have less control over contaminant entry into this chain than we have for the terrestrial chain. In general, at least three special properties are required for a contaminant to bioaccumulate in an aquatic food chain: 1) a high octanol-water partition coefficient, 2) chemical and metabolic stability in water and in organisms in the food chain, and 3) a low toxicity to organisms in the chain so that the chain is not broken by loss of an intermediate species. Few of the thousands of chemicals produced by human industry meet these requirements. In terms of organic chemicals, the best known examples of bioaccumulation in aquatic food chains are the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and organochlorine pesticides such as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). Few examples exist of bioaccumulation of metal compounds. Methylmercury is arguably the most dramatic and best documented example of high bioaccumulation.[1]


  1. Environmental contaminants in the food chain. Clarkson, T.W. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. (1995) [Pubmed]
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