Swedish breast milk: Now less
Reported June 10, 2009
Good news for new and soon-to-be moms! A mother's breast milk may not be as
toxic for her baby as she once thought!
PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenols, are a group of industrial chemicals that
were developed in the early 1920s and used as coolants and lubricants for
various electrical equipment. But by the 1970s, most health organizations
recognized PCBs are probable carcinogens that were damaging both to the
environment and to human health. The use of PCBs was banned in Sweden in
1972 (PCBs have been banned in the U.S. since 1979) but traces remain in the
environment due to the long degradation process. One place these traces have
been showing up: a mother's breast milk. But good news is on the
horizon..these traces may finally be declining.
In a recent study published in Sweden's Uppsala Nya Tidning (UNT),
researchers analyzed the levels of PCBs, dioxins and several brominated
flame retardants that were found in breast milk samples taken from 335
randomly selected women in Uppsala county who gave birth to children between
The Swedish study found that levels of PCB declined by between 4-9% each
year. For the dioxins PCDD and PCDF the levels declined by 5-7% per year.
Results were less positive with regard to brominated flame retardants, as
the study did not establish a decline in these levels.
Most experts agree that despite the presence of various toxins found in
breast milk, it is still superior to formula when it comes to feeding
babies. According to Making Our Milk Safe (MOMS), mothers can protect their
babies by reducing their own exposure to toxic chemicals found in foods,
clothing, and many other products encountered in their daily lives. MOMS
recommends eating organic foods to reduce exposure to pesticides, limiting
the amount of fish in the diet to reduce exposure to lead and mercury,
covering lead paint in homes, choosing cosmetics free of pthalates, using
glass rather than plastic, and wearing clothing made of natural fibers which
do not require dry cleaning to avoid exposure to harmful cleaning solvents.