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Critical contaminants in breast milk
In Canadian populations, Craan and Haines (1998) reported a downward trend from 1967 to 1992 in the concentrations of organochlorine pesticides and PCBs in human breast milk. A similar decline could be expected of organochlorine concentrations in human breast milk in the Great Lakes basin.
Nonetheless, trace levels of PCBs and other PBT chemicals are found in breast milk of the general population. Very little is known about the effects of exposure of infants to moderately high levels of organochlorines during the breast-feeding period. Jacobson and others (1992) did not find an association between breast-feeding and developmental deficits in his Michigan fish consumers study (Van Oostdam et al, 1999). Rogan et al (1991) in reporting on the North Carolina Breast Milk and Formula Project, saw no evidence of adverse effects from exposure to PCBs or DDE (a metabolite of DDT) through breast milk, although they did report a subtle motor delay attributable to transplacental (in utero) exposure. Research is continuing into health risks of PBT chemical exposure from breast feeding and other exposure routes.
"There are many recognized advantages to breast-feeding to infants and to mothers, including improved nutrition, increased resistance to infection, protection against allergies, and better parent-child relationships. With full regard for the uncertainty over the toxic effects of organochlorines in human milk, the known benefits of breast-feeding are extensive and serve as a strong rationale for advising mothers to continue to breast-feed their newborns unless cautioned by their local health care worker to reduce or stop." (cited from Van Oostdam et al, 1999).
Last modified: April 29, 2003