Babies can ingest harmful chemicals from mother's milk

24 August 2015

As breastfeeding gains popularity among more and more mothers due to its reported health benefits, a new study says breastfeeding could lead to harmful chemicals being passed on to babies. 

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health in the US found breastfeeding might pass harmful chemicals to babies, specifically poisonous compounds like perfluorinated alkylate substances or PFAs.

The harmful chemicals reportedly built-up in the infants body by 20 to 30 per cent for each month that they underwent breastfeeding, it said.

The study, published in the journal of Environmental Science and Technology, also reported findings stating PFAs had been linked to testicular and kidney cancers, obesity, liver problems and delayed puberty.

According to experts the findings pose a significant concern in the developmental stages of a baby as it might suppress the immune system and other body functions vital to the normal development of a child.

According to The Daily Mail, experts emphasised that the findings of the study did not mean that women should stop breastfeeding entirely.

The findings could be treated as a health warning to make breastfeeding women more conscious with their exposure to the said harmful chemicals by avoiding non-stick kitchenware and vacuuming rooms on a regular basis to eliminate dust contaminated with PFAs.

The scientists claim the research was the first to show the extent to which PFASs could be transferred to babies through breast milk.

According to the research team, they knew that small amounts of PFAS could occur in breast milk, but their new study involved serial blood analyses that showed now a buildup in the infants.

The levels of toxic chemical buildup became higher the longer the babies were breastfed, according to the adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard Chan School, Philippe Grandjean.

According to the professor, PFAs were used to make products resistant to stains, grease and water.

PFA compounds had found applications in industrial use for over 60 years including products such as waterproof clothing, stain-proof textiles, lubricants, paints and some food packaging.

Scientists were aware that these chemicals contaminated drinking water in the US near various production facilities.

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