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Chemosphere. 2017 May;175:383-390. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2017.02.084. Epub 2017 Feb 20.

Comparative study on the occurrence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in breast milk and infant formula and risk assessment.

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Department of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Production, University of Naples, Italy.
Experimental Zooprophylactic Institute of Southern Italy, Portici, Italy.
Department of Gynaecology, Obstetrics and Reproductive Medicine, Second University of Naples, Italy.
Department of Internal Medicine, Second University of Naples, Italy.
Department of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Production, University of Naples, Italy. Electronic address:


The study compared the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) profile of human milk collected from Italian mothers and different brands of infant formula available on Italian market. Levels of 14 PAHs most frequently occurred in food, PAH markers listed by Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1881/2006, and carcinogenic PAHs classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, were determined by high-pressure liquid chromatography with fluorescence detector. The average concentrations of total PAHs were 114.93 in breast milk and 53.68 μg kg-1 in infant formula. Furthermore, Benzo(a)pyrene (BaP) and the sum of ∑PAH4 markers (BaP, Chrysene, Benzo(a,h)anthracene and Benzo(b)fluoranthene) were higher than the permissible limit of 1 μg kg-1 in 43% and 86% for breast milk and in 10% and 76% for infant formula samples, respectively. Breast milk showed higher levels (P < 0.05) of carcinogenic, and possible carcinogenic hydrocarbons than infant formula samples. Both in human and commercial milk, data showed the occurrence of low and high molecular weight PAHs, respectively from petrogenic and pyrolytic environmental sources, characterizing the infant and mother exposure. Particularly, waste incineration could have represented an important exposure source for infants during breastfeeding, through exposition of mothers resident in some areas of Southern Italy. High PAH levels detected in infant formula enriched with LC-PUFA might be related to the contamination of the vegetable oils added as ingredients. Results showed a high percentage of samples of both breast milk and infant formulas with margin of exposure (MOE) value indicating a potential concern for consumer health.


Breast milk; Infant exposition; Infant formula; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

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