Well, aflatoxins are well established to have a number of health impacts, and particularly where the high exposures are occurring in the developing countries. The problem there is that people eat the diet, such as maize or peanuts, which are heavily contaminated with these toxins. We see three main health effects, in fact. First of all, at very high levels we see acute poisoning and even deaths from aflatoxin contamination. The second thing is these toxins are well known to cause liver cancer, particularly in people that also have chronic infection with hepatitis B virus, which is commonly occurring in the same areas that we have heavy aflatoxin contamination. And more recently, and very strikingly, has been the observation that young children that consume high amounts of aflatoxin show evidence of stunting and growth impairment, and the concern is that that stunting and growth impairment makes the child more susceptible to other illnesses, such as infectious diseases, which cause this high level of mortality - childhood mortality - in many of these countries.
Media Centre - IARC News
New IARC report urges action against widespread mycotoxin contamination in developing countries
In a new Report published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a Working Group of experts reviewed the health effects of aflatoxins and fumonisins. The panel concluded that these mycotoxins are not only a cause of acute poisoning and cancer but are also a likely contributor to the high levels of stunting in children in affected populations. Dr Christopher Wild, Director of IARC and an expert on aflatoxin carcinogenicity, explains what mycotoxins are.