Presence of organic halogenated compounds, organophosphorus insecticides and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in meat of different game animal species from an Italian subalpine area

The exposure to several compounds such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), organophosphorus pesticides (OPs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAHs), perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) is a public health issue. The European Union (EU) recommended that its member states monitor the presence of emerging contaminants, like PBDEs and PFASs, in food and in the environment to obtain an accurate estimation of exposure. The tissues of wild animals exposed to these compounds can represent a suitable indicator of environmental pollution. The aim of this work is to evaluate: (i) the occurrence of PCBs, PBDEs, PFASs, PAHs, OCPs and OPs in four game animals’ meat (chamois, red deer, wild boar and roe deer); (ii) interspecies differences and (iii) human exposure. Muscle samples from seventy-nine animals were collected during the hunting season in a Northern Italy mountain area at altitudes ranging from 300 to 2500 meters above sea level. The analyses were performed with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS/MS) and ultra-performance liquid chromatography – tandem mass spectrometry (UHPLC-MS/MS). No PBDEs were found in the samples. OCPs, OPs and PCBs were detected in almost all samples at different concentration ranges, showing higher frequency in ungulate species than in wild boar. PFAs were found only in wild boar. Anthracene and benzopyrene, among PAHs, were found only in chamois, at low concentrations. The lack of an accurate pattern of exposure as well as variable consumption by hunters does not allow accurate risk characterisation. However, a low risk for consumers can be indicated due to the frequent detection of contaminants only at trace levels, the scarce prevalence of high concentrations of some contaminants and the low consumption of game animal meat. In conclusion, the organisation of a control plan on residues in game animals would be advisable.