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Analyst. 1995 Mar;120(3):765-70.

Exposure to toxic elements via breast milk.

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Toxicology Division, Swedish National Food Administration, Uppsala.


Breast milk is the ideal nutrient for the newborn, but unfortunately also a route of excretion for some toxic substances. Very little attention has been paid to breast milk as a source of exposure to toxic elements. The dose-dependent excretion is breast milk and the uptake in the neonate of inorganic mercury, methylmercury and lead were studied in an experimental model for rats and mice. The transfer of mercury from plasma to milk was found to be higher in dams exposed to inorganic mercury than to methylmercury. In contrast, the uptake of mercury from milk was higher in the sucklings of dams exposed to methylmercury than to inorganic mercury. Pre- and postnatal exposure to methylmercury resulted in increased numbers and altered proportions of the thymocyte subpopulation and increased lymphocyte activities in the offspring of mice and also effects on the levels of noradrenaline and nerve growth factor in the developing brain of rats. Mercury in blood and breast milk in lactating women in Sweden was studied in relation to the exposure to mercury from, fish and amalgam. Low levels were found; the mean levels were 0.6 ng g-1 in milk and 2.3 ng g-1 in blood. There was a statistically significant correlation between mercury levels in blood and milk, showing that milk levels were approximately 30% of the levels in blood. Inorganic mercury exposure from amalgam was reflected in blood and milk mercury levels. Recent exposure to methylmercury from consumption of fish was reflected in mercury levels in the blood but not in milk.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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