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Sci Total Environ. 2004 Aug 15;329(1-3):289-93.

Organochlorine compounds in breast-fed vs. bottle-fed infants: preliminary results at six weeks of age.

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Outpatient Paediatric Office, Reinstorfweg 10a, 21107 Hamburg, Germany.



Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), hexachlorobenzene (HCB), and 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethane (DDT) are ubiquitous compounds with carcinogenic and teratogenic properties. They are chemically very stable and lipophilic and, therefore, accumulate in our food-chain. They are prenatally transmitted from mother to foetus, and mother's milk due to its high lipid content is an elimination pathway of special importance. Therefore, breast-feeding has been held responsible for elevated concentrations of these organochlorine compounds as well as for harmful effects in children later in life.


Blood samples (2.5 ml) were taken from each 10 breast-fed and bottle-fed infants at 6 weeks of age. Blood specimens were immediately centrifuged, and serum was stored in glass tubes at -20 degrees C until analysis. Three higher chlorinated PCB congeners (IUPAC nos. 138, 153 and 180), HCB, and the organic metabolite of DDT, p,p << -DDE, were analysed with capillary gas chromatography with electron capture detection. Reliability was tested with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry.


There were no differences between the study groups of breast-fed and bottle-fed infants with regard to sex distribution, gestational age, birth-weight, age of the mothers, and smoking behaviour of the parents. In contrast, serum concentrations of all organochlorine compounds were significantly higher (P < 0.0001) in breast-fed than in bottle-fed infants (mean): PCB 138, 0.38 vs. 0.10 microg/l; PCB 153, 0.49 vs. 0.1 microg/l; PCB 180, 0.31 vs. 0.04 microg/l; SigmaPCB, 1.19 vs. 0.29 microg/l; HCB, 0.13 vs. 0.04 microg/l; p,p << -DDE, 1.05 vs. 0.18 microg/l.


Breast-feeding significantly increases the pollution of our infants with different organochlorine compounds as early as at 6 weeks of age. The progress of the present study will show whether this pollution will further increase with longer duration of breast-feeding, and whether breast-feeding bears any health risks for our offspring.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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