Huang, T., Ling, Z., Ma, J.,Macdonald, R.W., Gao, H., Tao, S., Tian, C., Song, S., Jiang, W., Chen, L., Chen, K., Xie, Z., Zhao, Y., Zhao, L., Gu, C., & Mao, X. (2020): Human exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls embodied in global fish trade. Nature Food, doi:10.1038/s43016-020-0066-1
International food trade poses food safety risks through the collateral transport of contaminants that are harmful to human health. Persistent organic pollutants, such as the polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congener PCB-153, are consumed via fish intake traded globally, but the estimated daily intake and risk to human health are poorly understood. Using a food trade pathway model, a global-scale atmospheric persistent organic pollutant transport model and UN Global Comtrade data, high PCB exposure was identified in Western Europe. Marine fish exported from Europe to Sub-Saharan African countries account for 84% of PCB-153 consumer exposure. In contrast, European fish consumers face reduced exposure to PCB-153 by consuming marine fish imported from countries where PCB-153 concentrations are low. People consuming aquaculture-farmed salmon fed with marine ingredients from PCB-153-contaminated seawaters face a higher PCB exposure. Our findings demonstrate that global fish trade can exacerbate PCB-153 exposure in regions where environmental PCB-153 levels are low. This approach demonstrates how the exposure to harmful food contaminants distributed through global food trade can be predicted and quantified.