Toxic chemicals in breast milk, should breastfeeding moms be alarmed? Read all about it here.
What can you read in this article?
- Study: Alarming amount of toxic chemicals found in breast milk
- What is PFAS and why are they called forever chemicals?
- Should breastfeeding moms be concerned?
We believe that breast milk is the best food we can give our babies, and there is a lot of evidence that can support that.
However, a recent study shows that there can be a huge amount of toxic chemicals that are present in breast milk.
Study: high levels of forever chemicals found in breast milk
According to the study that was recently published in Environmental Science and Technology Journal, a high amount of toxic chemicals PFAS was found in breast milk.
A peer-reviewed study tested 50 samples of breast milk in the U.S. for PFAS and all the samples came out with an alarming result. The PFAS found in breast milk is 2,000 times higher than the level some public health advocates advise is safe for drinking water.
According to the authors of the said study, this should be a cause for alarm. And can be a potential threat to the health of newborn babies.
“The study shows that PFAS contamination of breast milk is likely universal in the US and that these harmful chemicals are contaminating what should be nature’s perfect food,” Erika Schreder, a co-author and science director with Toxic-Free Future, told The Guardian.
The samples of the breast milk found PFAS at levels ranging from 50 parts per trillion (ppt) to more than 1,850ppt. While there are no standards that have been set for breast milk. The environmental agencies working with the Department of Health in the U.S. recommend only as little as 14ppt in children’s drinking water.
Toxic chemicals in breast milk. | Image from Pexels
“The study also analyzed breast milk data from around the world and found PFAS detection frequency is increasing.” according to the report.
There has not been a thorough study of the effect of PFAS on newborns. But previous research of older children and adults has linked the chemicals to hormonal disruptions. And, suggested that PFAS could harm the immune system.
This finding can be significantly problematic for infants because breast milk supports their immune system.
PFAS: the forever chemicals
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are man-made chemicals that are commonly used in food packaging and some household products.
These chemicals are made of strong substances like bonds of flourine and carbon. That’s why it makes it hard for them to disintegrate in the environment and even in our bodies.
They are coined as “forever chemicals” because they don’t dissolve and just accumulate inside our system.
Some diseases that have been linked to the use of PFAS include the following:
- liver damage
- thyroid disease
- decreased fertility
- high cholesterol
- hormone suppression
PFAs can travel through air, dust, food, soil, and water. People can also be exposed to them through cosmetics, food packaging, and other household products. Like cleaning products, Teflon, and non-stick pots and pans.
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Toxic chemicals found in breast milk
toxic chemicals in breast milk. | Image from Pexels
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast milk has been exposed to the presence of chemical toxins in the past and that is the following
Chemicals in cigarette
Aside from the dangers of secondhand smoke, studies showed that chemicals found in tobacco or cigarettes, including nicotine, can be passed on from the mother to her infant through breast milk and can be harmful to them.
Pregnant women and breastfeeding moms are advised to steer clear of eating fish. Especially fish with a high amount of mercury. A small amount of mercury can be passed through breast milk. It can be harmful to your infant’s brain.
According to CDC, alcohol levels are usually highest in breast milk 30-60 minutes after an alcoholic beverage is consumed, and can be generally detected in breast milk for about 2-3 hours per drink after it is consumed. Moreover, the more alcohol the mother consumes, the longer it stays in the breast milk.
Various researches have found a lot of negative outcomes of alcohol in breast milk, including growth retardation and impairment in cognitive development in infants.
Should breastfeeding moms be concerned?
These chemicals do have potentially harmful effects on breastfeeding babies. However, for a vast majority of women, breastfeeding far outweighs the risk of these toxic substances.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also stated that,
“Even though a number of environmental pollutants readily pass to the infant through human milk. The advantages of breastfeeding continue to greatly outweigh the potential risks in nearly every circumstance.”
Despite the alarming outcome of the study, mothers should still continue to breastfeed their children.
However, the authors cautioned pregnant women and mothers against the use of products that contain PFAS such as:
- greaseproof food packaging (fast food containers and wrappers)
- cleaning products
- waterproof clothing that uses PFAS
- cooking products with Teflon or similar non-stick properties.
The bottom line
For pregnant women and breastfeeding moms. It’s important to be more careful of the things you ingest and use around you. Make it a habit to check the packaging. Always check the chemicals used in the product before buying and consuming it.
Check if your cleaning products contain PFAS | Image from Freepik
The Guardian, CDC, CNN