On August 20, 2015 the UK-based advocacy group for chemical safety CHEM Trust reported on a new study investigating the transfer of perfluorinated alkylate substances (PFAS) from mother to infant via breast milk. The peer-reviewed study was conducted by researchers Ulla B. Mogensen and colleagues from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, the University of Southern Denmark, the Faroese Hospital System, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, U.S.. The researchers measured blood serum concentrations of five types of PFAS in 81 Faroese children at birth, ages 11 months, 18 months, and five years. They found that PFAS blood levels increased by approximately 20-30% in children who were exclusively breastfed. Lower increases were reported among children who were partially breastfed. By the end of breastfeeding, some childrens’ PFAS blood levels were higher than those of their mothers. However, after breastfeeding serum concentrations of PFAS decreased. The study’s results suggest that breast milk is a major source of PFAS exposure during infancy. Mogensen and colleagues consider their results of concern as PFAS are transferred to the next generation at a vulnerable age. However, the researchers do not discourage breastfeeding given its many health benefits for child and mother.
PFAS are used in many consumer products, for example non-stick frying pans, waterproof clothing and food packaging such as pizza boxes and microwave popcorn bags. PFAS are persistent in the environment and bioaccumulate in animals and humans. They are linked to reproductive toxicity, endocrine disruption, and immune system dysfunction.
Gwen Buck (August 20, 2015). “Breast milk could be a major source of exposure to persistent PFCs in infancy.” CHEM Trust
Lynne Peeples (August 20. 2015). “Toxic chemicals taint the ‘best possible’ food for babies.” Huffington Post
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (August 20, 2015). “Breastfeeding may expose infants to toxic chemicals.”
Brian Bienkowski (August 20, 2015). “Breastfeeding exposes babies to water- and stain-proofing chemicals.” Environmental Health News
Bill Walker (August 24, 2015). “Commentary: Despite industry spin, bad news keeps sticking to Teflon chemical.” Environmental Health News
Mogensen, U. B. et al. (2015). “Breastfeeding as an exposure pathway for perfluorinated alkylates.” Environmental Science & Technology (published online August 20, 2015)