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Int J Biomed Sci. 2006 Jun;2(2):178-83.

Human Milk, Environmental Toxins and Pollution of Our Infants: Disturbing Findings during the First Six Months of Life.

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Outpatient Paediatric Office, Hamburg, and Department of Paediatrics, Heinrich Heine University, Dusseldorf, Germany.



Toxic organochlorine compounds (OC) are transmitted from mother to infant during lactation. OC are ingested by and stored in their offspring. Different harmful effects later in life have been attributed to the body pollution with these OC, although these findings are still discussed in an argumentative manner, since first other investigators could demonstrate beneficial effects of breast-feeding despite elevated OC concentrations, and second the benefits of breast-feeding are an unchallenged fact, especially in those countries, where infant formulas are not available. It was the aim of the present study to determine the lactational uptake of different OC (polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), hexachlorobenzene (HCB), and DDE) in breast-fed vs. bottle-fed infants up to six months of age.


With the written informed consent of the parents, blood samples were taken from each ten breast-fed and bottle-fed infants, respectively. The specimens were immediately centrifuged, and serum was stored in glass tubes without an anticoagulant up to analysis. Three higher-chlorinated PCB congeners (IUPAC Nos. 138, 153, and 180), HCB, and DDE, the main metabolite of DDT in mammals, were determined with capillary gas chromatography with electron capture detection. In addition, reliability was tested with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Possible correlations of OC with personal data were tested with a standard multivariate regression model. Differences between study groups were tested on mean differences with Wilcoxons test for independent samples.


We could demonstrate that breast-fed infants have significantly (p<0.0001) elevated serum concentrations of all OC as early as at the age of six weeks (90%), which over and above nearly doubled further until the age of six months. (Median (μg/L); A=six weeks; B=six months): PCB 138, A: 0.40 vs. 0.09; B: 0.72 vs. 0.07; PCB 153, A: 0.57 vs. 0.11; B: 0.99 vs. 0.09; PCB 180, A: 0.33 vs. 0.04; B: 0.58 vs. 0.02; PCB (sum of the three PCB congeners), A: 1.19 vs. 0.29; B: 2.28 vs. 0.18; HCB, A: 0.13 vs. 0.04; B: 0.43 vs. 0.07; DDE, A: 1.05 vs. 0.18; B: 1.90 vs. 0.19.


The discussion about the benefits of breast-feeding should be reconsidered again, with special emphasis on the question, whether the recommendations for breast-feeding can unreservedly be maintained for the future throughout the world, especially in face of the availability of infant formulas in industrialized vs. Third World countries, respectively.


breast-feeding; children; dietary toxicology; environmental pollutants; organochlorine compounds

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