Concentrations of perfluoroalkyl substances in donor breast milk in Southern Spain and their potential determinants

By Laura Serrano, Luz Mª Iribarne-Durán, Beatriz Suárez, Francisco Artacho-Cordón, Fernando Vela-Soria, Manuela Peña-Caballero, Jose A Hurtado, Nicolás Olea, Mariana F Fernández, and Carmen Freire
Int J Hyg Environ Health
July 6, 2021
DOI: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2021.113796


Breast milk is considered to offer the best nutrition to infants; however, it may be a source of exposure to environmental chemicals such as perfluoroalkyl compounds (PFAS) for breastfeeding infants. PFAS are a complex group of synthetic chemicals whose high stability has led to their ubiquitous contamination of the environment.


To assess the concentrations and profiles of PFAS in breast milk from donors to a human milk bank and explore factors potentially related to this exposure.


Pooled milk samples were collected from 82 donors to the Human Milk Bank of the Virgen de las Nieves University Hospital (Granada, Spain). Ultra-high performance liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry (UHPLC-MS/MS) was applied to determine milk concentrations of 11 PFAS, including long-chain and short-chain compounds. A questionnaire was used to collect information on donors' socio-demographic characteristics, lifestyle, diet, and use of personal care products (PCPs). Factors related to individual and total PFAS concentrations were evaluated by multivariate regression analysis.


PFAS were detected in 24-100% of breast milk samples. PFHpA was detected in 100% of samples, followed by PFOA (84%), PFNA (71%), PFHxA (66%), and PFTrDA (62%). Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) was detected in only 34% of donors. The median concentrations ranged from <0.66 ng/dL (perfluorohexane sulfonic acid [PFHxS]) to 19.39 ng/L (PFHpA). The median of the sum of PFAS concentrations was 87.67 ng/L and was higher for short-chain than long-chain PFAS. Factors most frequently associated with increased PFAS concentrations included intake of creatin animal food items and use of PCPs such as skin care and makeup products.


Several PFAS, including short-chain compounds, are detected in pooled donor milk samples. Breast milk may be an important pathway for the PFAS exposure of breastfed infants, including preterm infants in NICUs. Despite the reduced sample size, these data suggest that various lifestyle factors influence PFAS concentrations, highlighting the use of PCPs.

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