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Chemosphere. 2012 Nov;89(8):911-8. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2012.06.049. Epub 2012 Aug 4.

Partitioning of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) between human serum and breast milk: a literature review.

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Centre for Public Health Research, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand.


The literature was reviewed to assess the relationship between the lipid adjusted concentration in human serum and breast milk (expressed as the serum/milk ratio) of a broad range of POPs in paired samples. Thirteen studies were identified, including seven studies that reported serum/milk ratios for polychlorinated dibenzo-dioxins and -furans (PCDD/Fs), ten for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), five for polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and five for organochlorine pesticides (OCPs). Mean serum/milk ratios ranged between 0.7 and 25 depending on the compound and congener. For PCDD/Fs, PCBs and PBDEs, a clear trend of increasing mean serum/milk ratio by increasing molar volume, hydrophobicity and number of halogen substitutes was observed. The mean serum/milk ratios reported by the 13 studies summarized here will aid comparison between human POPs exposure studies using either serum or milk samples. More studies are needed to allow a valid comparison between data obtained from analysis of breast milk and serum samples for a broader range of POPs. Furthermore such studies may shed light on compound specific factors as well as other determinants that may affect the partitioning and partition kinetics of POPs between serum and breast milk.

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