According to a study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology infants who are breast fed could build up worrying levels of industrial chemicals that are found in human breast milk. The research was conducted by researchers from Danish institutions in collaboration with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
It seems that the longer an infant is breast fed the more he is exposed to PFASs, a common type of industrial chemicals known as perfluorinated alkylate substances. These chemicals are used in stainproof textiles and they are largely unregulated. Recent research has proved that PFASs affected the immune and reproductive systems and even caused cancer among lab animals.
Once they are in the environment PFASs attach to animal proteins and bioaccumulate the food chain. This means that animals that are at the top of the food chain such as large fish and humans can accumulate high levels of PFASs in their bodies. So the chemicals reach babies through protein-rich breast milk. It seems that with each month the PFAS concentration in the infants’ blood increases with between 20 and 30 percent. In some cases by the time the breast feeding period ended the children had more PFASs in their body than the mothers did.
The data for the study came from blood samples from 81 children who were born between 1997 and 2000. The participants were born in the Faroe Islands. Besides noting an increase of 20-30 percent of PFASs among children who were exclusively fed with breast milk the researchers also observed that children who were only partially breast fed had a lower monthly increase of the chemicals.
The authors of the study said:
There is no reason to discourage breastfeeding, but we are concerned that these pollutants are transferred to the next generation at a very vulnerable age. Unfortunately, the current US legislation does not require any testing of chemical substances like PFASs for their transfer to babies and any related adverse effects.”
Co-author of the author Dr. Philippe Grandjean from Harvard explained that there are ways in which mother can limit the babies’ exposure to PFASs such as eating seafood like sardines and small fish that do not have high levels of PFASs.
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