A new study has found that breastfeeding may increase the exposure of toxic chemicals in infants between 20-30% for each month they are breastfed. However, the study authors do not believe these facts should discourage breastfeeding as the chemical concentrations decrease once breastfeeding stops.
BREASTFEEDING INCREASES CHEMICAL CONCENTRATIONS IN INFANTS
Breastfeeding is a personal choice for each mother to make under the guidance of a physician. While there are many positive effects of breastfeeding, this new study has found at least one drawback to breast milk.
The study is the first to quantify the levels of toxic chemicals known as perfluorinated alkylate substances, or PFAS in infants that is transferred from mother to baby via breast milk. These chemicals are found in everyday products that nearly every consumer comes into contact with, which may be the reason why the buildup of these chemicals may increase in infants by 30% each month they are breastfed.
Though these percentages seem high, they do decrease after the child stops breastfeeding and the study authors did not recommend or discourage breastfeeding.
TOXIC CHEMICALS CALLED PFAS MAY PASS FROM MOM’S BREAST MILK TO INFANTS
The study authors were well aware of the fact PFAS were found in trace amounts in breast milk, however it wasn’t until their study that the precise amount passed on to infants was revealed.
For children who were solely breastfed, the concentration of PFAS was between 20 and 30 percent for each month they were breastfed, while the children who were only partially breastfed had a reduced increase.
Nearing the end of their breastfeeding, some infants had higher PFAS concentrations than their mothers! However, all of the levels decreased when the child stopped drinking breast milk, no matter if they had been exclusively breastfed or partially.
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL WITH PFAS IN BREAST MILK?
Well, PFAs are in lots of household products. From the waterproof mattress protector to Dad’s stain-resistant shirt to Mom’s new paint supplies and even in the kitchen as food packaging, PFAS are everywhere and bioaccumulate in food chains.
These little chemical compounds are basically indestructible and and can be found in the body for a long, long time. They’ve been linked to problems with the immune system, endocrine system, and even reproductive systems.
But the U.S. does not regulate the amount of transfer of PFAS to infants and does not perform chemical testings. The science may be solid, but the legislation is not, so your baby may be at risk for health issues that arise from PFAS.
BREASTFEEDING IS NOT DISCOURAGED BY STUDY AUTHORS
The study concluded that breast milk was a significant source of PFAS exposure for infants; however, the researchers did not discredit or condemn breastfeeding.
Of the 81 children from the Faroe Islands that participated in the study, all were found to have had their PFAS concentrations decrease at the termination of breastfeeding. The researchers conducted blood analyses at the 32 weeks gestation, birth, 11 months, 18 months, and 5 years.
The researchers are concerned about the high level of transfer between mother and baby, but they are not suggesting stopping breastfeeding.
The study was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, the study was conducted by experts from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Faroese Hospital system alongside Danish universities.