Serum concentrations of chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, furans and PCBs, among former phenoxy herbicide production workers and firefighters in New Zealand

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2016 Feb;89(2):307-18. doi: 10.1007/s00420-015-1074-6. Epub 2015 Jul 21.


Purpose: To quantify serum concentrations of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) and dioxin-like compounds in former phenoxy herbicide production plant workers and firefighters, 20 years after 2,4,5-T production ceased.

Methods: Of 1025 workers employed any time during 1969-1984, 430 were randomly selected and invited to take part in a morbidity survey and provide a blood sample; 244 (57%) participated. Firefighters stationed in close proximity of the plant and/or engaged in call-outs to the plant between 1962 and 1987 also participated (39 of 70 invited). Reported here are the serum concentrations of TCDD and other chlorinated dibenzo-dioxins, dibenzofurans, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Determinants of the serum concentrations were assessed using linear regression.

Results: The 60 men who had worked in the phenoxy/TCP production area had a mean TCDD serum concentration of 19.1 pg/g lipid, three times the mean concentration of the 141 men and 43 women employed in other parts of the plant (6.3 and 6.0 pg/g respectively), and more than 10 times the mean for the firefighters (1.6 pg/g). Duration of employment in phenoxy herbicide synthesis, maintenance work, and work as a boilerman, chemist, and packer were associated with increased serum concentrations of TCDD and 1,2,3,4,7-pentachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (PeCDD). Employment as a boilerman was also associated with elevated serum concentrations of PCBs.

Conclusions: Occupations in the plant associated with phenoxy herbicide synthesis had elevated levels of TCDD and PeCDD. Most other people working within the plant, and the local firefighters, had serum concentrations of dioxin-like compounds comparable to those of the general population.

Keywords: 1,2,3,4,7-Pentachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin; 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin; Biological monitoring; Occupational exposure; Polychlorinated biphenyls.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic Acid / chemical synthesis
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / blood
  • Benzofurans / blood*
  • Chemical Industry*
  • Dibenzofurans, Polychlorinated
  • Female
  • Firefighters*
  • Herbicides / chemical synthesis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New Zealand
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Occupations
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood*
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / analogs & derivatives
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / blood*
  • Time Factors


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Benzofurans
  • Dibenzofurans, Polychlorinated
  • Herbicides
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins
  • 2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic Acid
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls