Newspaper article

Breastfed Babies Exposed to Less Arsenic Than Those Given Formula, Study Finds

Newspaper article

Breastfed Babies Exposed to Less Arsenic Than Those Given Formula, Study Finds

Article excerpt

Breastfed babies have lower levels of arsenic in their urine than bottle-fed babies, according to a limited study published Monday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The study also found that both formula powder and drinking water can contribute to an infant's exposure to arsenic, but that the powder seems to be the more significant source.

Arsenic exposure, even at low levels, is a health concern, particularly when it occurs early in life. Studies have suggested that babies who are exposed to chronic, low levels of arsenic in utero or during early childhood are at greater risk of developing severe infections and a lower IQ. Early-life exposure to arsenic has also been associated with an increased risk of lung disease, heart disease and cancer later in life.

Arsenic occurs naturally in bedrock and is therefore a common contaminant of well water. The Environmental Protection Agency has set a maximum arsenic contamination level for public drinking water systems, but that level is sometimes exceeded. In addition, private well water, the main source of drinking water in many parts of the United States, is not required to meet the EPA's standard.

There are no federal limits for arsenic levels in most foods, and arsenic from natural sources has been found in powdered baby formula, particularly those powders made with brown rice syrup. As background information in this study points out, previous research has found that breast milk itself tends to contain very low levels of arsenic, even when mothers have been exposed to high levels of the chemical.

Study details

For this study, a team of researchers led by Kathryn Cottingham of Dartmouth College, recruited New Hampshire pregnant women, aged 18 to 45, who were receiving prenatal care at a Dartmouth- affiliated health clinic. Water samples were taken from the women's home kitchen taps and analyzed for arsenic levels. When their babies were six weeks old, the women were asked to fill out a detailed three-day diary about what they were feeding their infant and to provide a urine sample (a soaked diaper) from their baby. Seventy- two of the samples had sufficient urine to be analyzed for arsenic. …

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