Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Chemical Contaminants in Breast Milk: Time Trends and Regional Variability. (Chemical Contaminants in Breast Milk: Mini-Monograph)

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Chemical Contaminants in Breast Milk: Time Trends and Regional Variability. (Chemical Contaminants in Breast Milk: Mini-Monograph)

Article excerpt

Research on environmentally related chemical contaminants in breast milk spans several decades and dozens of countries. The ability to use this research as an environmental indicator is limited because of a lack of consistent protocols. Data on xenobiotics in breast milk are influenced by choices in sample selection, sample pooling, analysis, and reporting. In addition, most studies have focused only on a small panel of persistent organic pollutants, despite indications that a wide range of additional chemical contaminants may also enter breast milk. Despite these limitations, however, it is possible to draw some generalizations. In this paper we review available data on levels of organochlorine pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated dibenzodioxins (PCDDs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), metals, and solvents in breast milk. Examples drawn from around the world illustrate the available data and the patterns that have appeared in various areas over time. Over the past few decades, levels of the organochlorine pesticides, PCBs, and dioxins have declined in breast milk in countries where these chemicals have been banned or otherwise regulated. In contrast, the levels of PBDEs are rising. Regional differences in levels of xenobiotics in breast milk are related to historical and current local use patterns. Diet is a major factor that influences breast milk levels of persistent organic pollutants, with patterns in fish consumption playing a particularly significant role. Improved global breast milk monitoring programs would allow for more consistent data on trends over time, detection of new xenobiotics in breast milk, and identification of disproportionately exposed populations. Key words: breast-feeding, breast milk, chemical contaminants, dioxins, pesticides, pollutants, polychlorinated biphenyls.

**********

Many nonpharmaceutical chemical contaminants, particularly those that are lipophilic and of relatively low molecular weight, can accumulate in breast milk. The potential health effects of these contaminants, also known as xenobiotics, on both mother and child is of great concern, making it important to carefully monitor contaminant levels and trends. Although some countries, most notably Sweden and Germany, have ongoing breast milk monitoring programs in place, data from the rest of the world are spotty. Few data exist for the United States and for most developing countries, particularly over the past two decades. Many of the studies that have been conducted are small and not necessarily representative of the larger population of the country where sampling was done. Almost all of the studies on xenobiotics in breast milk have focused on the same chemicals: organochlorine pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and dioxins. Few data are available on metals, solvents, and other chemicals. The fact that most studies have focused on the same panel of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) is problematic because it limits the ability to detect new or rising trends in contaminants and thereby may impede effective public health responses.

Efforts to compare levels of specific environmental contaminants across time and place are limited by other obstacles. There has historically been no standardized method for conducting breast milk monitoring studies, with the partial exception of those studies coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO) (1). A range of issues including donor selection, the timing of sample collection, the use of preservatives in archived samples, and different methods for estimating population averages (pooled vs. single sample detection) can all significantly affect the results of a study and have made comparisons difficult (2,3). Studies may also differ in their data reporting or in their measurement variables. This is problematic because the quantity and presence of different congeners, metabolites, and impurities reflect different exposure scenarios and different stages in metabolism. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.