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Environmental connections to public health >>

PFCs may concentrate in breast milk

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

baby_seeks_breast.jpgWhen EWG examined the cord blood of 10 American infants, perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) were among the 287 chemicals we found already circulating in their little bodies. PFCs make up the water and stain resistant coatings you might find in carpets, furniture, and clothing, and they're also the building blocks of the grease-resistant coating you'll find on a lot of packaged food containers.

Now, the first study of PFCs in human breast milk in the U.S. indicates that breastfed babies may be getting dosed with the chemicals again as soon as they're born. Forty-five breast milk samples, collected in Massachusetts in 2004, were studied for their PFC content. Not only did the team of researchers find significant levels of two of the compounds (PFOS and PFOA), but they also found that the level of PFOS in the breast milk was considerably greater than levels generally found in female blood serum. The implication, then, is that PFOS actually concentrates in breast milk.

PFCs are persistent and ubiquitous. They've been found in adults, infants, and wildlife all over the world, and they're associated with a wide variety of toxic affects, from immune problems to developmental toxicity. We're not just exposed through consumer products, either -- the manufacture of these industrial chemicals has insured that even if you avoid those products, you're still at risk for exposure through pollution. Some PFCs, including PFOA, are undergoing voluntary phaseouts by the manufacturers. EPA forced a phase-out of PFOS when it was found in human blood at levels near those that caused harm in lab animals.

Breast milk is still best, of course. But, is it just me, or does it seem absolutely criminal that mothers should have to worry that they're feeding their children polluted milk? Unfortunately there is no quick fix for this; the only way to get rid of dangerous chemicals and prevent new ones from making it to market is to legally require companies to prove that their product is safe.

Note: Since I'm always harping on others to consider the source of their information, I think it's worth mentioning that 3M (makers of Scotchgard) had a hand in this study.

Photo: Baby Seeks Breast by mollivan_max.

 

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