Mixture of environmental pollutants in breast milk from a Spanish cohort of nursing mothers

By Joaquim Rovira, María Ángeles Martínez, Montse Mari, Sara Cristina Cunha, Jose Oliveira Fernandes, Isa Marmelo, António Marques, Line Småstuen Haug, Cathrine Thomsen, Martí Nadal, José L Domingo, and Marta Schuhmacher
Environ Int
June 25, 2022
DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2022.107375

Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival, with several benefits for both the infants and their mothers. However, breast milk can contain environmental pollutants with endocrine disruption capacity, neurotoxicity and/or potential to alter microbiota. Monitoring breast milk provides information on the current chemical exposure of breastfed infants and, in addition, on the current and historical exposure of nursing mothers. In this study, the levels of a wide range of pollutants were measured in breast milk of Spanish nursing mothers. Target chemicals were dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), hexachlorobenzene (HCB), oxy-chlordane, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) (including perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)), chlorpyrifos, bisphenol A (BPA), tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA), and a number of toxic and essential elements. Traces of most chemicals were found. A correlation between the levels of some persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and maternal characteristics (age and body mass index) was observed, while smoking was associated to higher concentrations of some toxic elements. Higher levels of PCBs were detected in samples from Spanish primiparous mothers compared to non-Spanish multiparous women. Breast milk from low-income mothers showed higher content of DDT and DDE than high-income mothers. Although breastfeeding is clearly beneficial for babies, the exposure to this mixture of hazardous substances, as well as their interaction and combined effects must not be disregarded.

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