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Int J Epidemiol. 1999 Apr;28(2):179-88.

Worldwide trends in DDT levels in human breast milk.

Author information

1
Environmental Health Investigations Branch, California Department of Health Services, Oakland 94612-1404, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Concern over human breast milk contamination with the pesticide DDT (1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis(chlorodiphenyl)ethane) has prompted numerous studies around the world during the last five decades. This article examines trends in reported DDT levels, and the apparent effect of restrictions on DDT use.

METHODS:

More than 130 published values for DDT in human milk since 1951 were compiled, and trend lines were fit for regions of the world.

RESULTS:

Population means have declined in much of the world, from 5000-10000 microg DDT/kg milk fat to around 1000 today in many areas. Although different regions have different means, the decline seen in various countries corresponds to their restricting DDT use.

DISCUSSION:

DDT concentrations in human milk have declined in most areas of the world, consistent with restrictions on its use. Nevertheless, levels can be high in areas still using DDT, even higher than the World Health Organization's recommended limit for infants. These results indicate that population averages can be reduced by a predictable amount as DDT use is restricted.

PIP:

DDT, a pesticide, was first used in the 1940s to control wartime typhus and agricultural pests. However, its harmful effects upon wildlife led to the imposition of a ban upon its routine use in the US and many other countries in the 1970s. Concerns now exist over DDT's persistence in the environment, its bioaccumulation, and its potential for causing cancer and reproductive problems. Despite the availability of alternatives, DDT continues to be used, largely to control malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Human breast milk can be used to monitor levels of lipophilic organochlorine compounds such as DDT. Global trends are examined in reported DDT levels, as well as the apparent effect of restrictions upon DDT use. More than 130 published values for DDT in human milk since 1951 were compiled, and trend lines fit for regions of the world. Population means of DDT in breast milk declined throughout much of the world, from 5000-10,000 mcg DDT/kg milk fat to around 1000 today in many areas. Although different regions have different means, the decline observed in some countries nonetheless corresponds to their restriction of DDT use. Levels can still be high in areas still using DDT, even higher than the World Health Organization's recommended ceiling for infants. These results demonstrate that population averages can be reduced by a predictable amount when DDT use is restricted.

PMID:
10342677
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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