What is Aflatoxin?
Aflatoxin is a potent carcinogenic mycotoxin produced primarily by the fungi Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. These fungi can infect crops during growth, harvest, storage, and processing. Aflatoxin contamination can occur in various agricultural products, including grains, legumes, spices, and tree nuts. It is most commonly found in warm and humid regions with inadequate storage conditions.
Health Hazards of Aflatoxin
Aflatoxin poses significant health risks to humans and animals. Prolonged exposure to aflatoxin can lead to acute and chronic toxicity, with potentially severe consequences. The primary health hazards associated with aflatoxin consumption include:
- Carcinogenicity: Aflatoxin is a potent carcinogen and a known cause of liver cancer. Chronic exposure to aflatoxin-contaminated food can increase the risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a deadly form of liver cancer.
- Hepatotoxicity: Aflatoxin can cause liver damage, leading to impaired liver function, jaundice, and even liver failure in severe cases.
- Immune Suppression: Prolonged exposure to aflatoxin can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections and other diseases.