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Assessment of Dietary Exposure to Some Persistent Organic Pollutants in the Republic of Karakalpakstan of Uzbekistan.A 1999 study heightened long-standing concerns over persistent organic pollutant contamination in the Aral Sea area, detecting elevated levels in breast milk and cord blood of women in Karakalpakstan (western Uzbekistan). These findings prompted a collaborative research study aimed at linking such human findings with evidence of food chain contamination in the area. An international team carried out analyses of organochlorine and organophosphate pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs) on samples of 12 foods commonly produced and consumed in Karakalpakstan. Analysis consistently detected long-lasting organochlorine pesticides and their metabolites in all foods of animal origin and in some vegetables such as onions and carrots--two low-cost components of many traditional dishes. Levels of PCBs were relatively low in all samples except fish. Analyses revealed high levels of PCDDs and PCDFs (together often termed "dioxins") in sheep fat, dairy cream, eggs, and edible cottonseed oil, among other foodstuffs. These findings indicate that food traditionally grown, sold, and consumed in Karakalpakstan is a major route of human exposure to several persistent toxic contaminants, including the most toxic of dioxins, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD). Intake estimations demonstrate that consumption of even small amounts of locally grown food may expose consumers to dioxin levels that considerably exceed the monthly tolerable dioxin intake levels set by the World Health Organization. Data presented in this study allow a first assessment of the risk associated with the consumption of certain food products in Karakalpakstan and highlight a critical public health situation.