A recent article by Du, Gridneva, and Gay et al in the journal ‘Chemosphere’, ‘Pesticides in human milk of Western Australian women and their influence on infant growth outcomes: A cross-sectional study’, is about the levels of persistent organic pollutants in human milk.
Highlights were reported as being;
- Cross-sectional study of 88 POPs in human milk over first year of lactation.
- p,p′-DDE was detected in 87.5% of the human milk samples.
- No significant associations between p,p′-DDE and infant growth outcomes.
- Estimated daily intake overestimates human milk POP concentration.
- Human milk infant intake of DDTs is below the recommended daily intake guidelines.
And the abstract concluded with this;
“Furthermore, for the first time no significant association was found between p,p′-DDE concentrations in HM and infant growth outcomes such as weight, length, head circumference and percentage fat mass. The calculated daily intake was significantly different to the estimated daily intake of total DDTs and was well below the guideline proposed by WHO. The DDTs levels in WA have also significantly decreased by 42 – fold since the 1970s and are currently the lowest in Australia.”
So, good news – pollution of the environment, and human exposure to it, is reducing through the restriction of usage of some chemicals. Whether it’s fast enough and widespread enough is another question.
Why I’m writing this really is in response to the Alternet article, ‘Pesticide Levels in Breast Milk Have Dropped Significantly, but Health Concerns Remain.’ The article itself is quite good, given that it mentions not only human milk but also blood and urine, which is a good thing, as sometimes articles miss this point and readers can mistakenly construe that breast milk is the only fluid with an issue. But the article forgot to mention that babies are exposed to chemicals in utero and breastfeeding is really important as it mediates this exposure. So here are a few important points gathered together –
- Levels of pesticides in breast milk have dropped significantly over the past 40 years.
- Alternet doesn’t mention it, but breastfeeding actually mediates the exposure that has already occurred in utero, and breastfeeding/breastmilk supports the development of the infant immune system.
- This means that breastfeeding is still recommended and is optimal for infant feeding and infant growth, wellness and development.
- It Illustrates the positive impact banning pesticides can have on the health of individuals, especially vulnerable infants.
- And that’s the issue – the need to keep up the pressure to clean up our pesticide-riddled world as babies and small children, and their mothers, are exposed to hazardous chemicals through contact with products such as carpets, clothing, furniture, household and cleaning products, as well as those in food, the air and the soil.
- So, the chemical industries responsible, and the governments who fail to regulate them, need to be held to account.
- And, just to remind everyone – cows & their milk do not live in a parallel universe either, so feeding formula to infants is not the answer.