Moedermelk kan schadelijke chemicaliën bevatten, zoals vlamvertragers en BPA, maar borstvoeding is nog steeds de gezondste voedselbron voor baby'sjuli 30, 2019
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- For decades, scientists have seen trace amounts of chemicals such as flame retardants and heavy metals in breast milk.
- These findings are particularly concerning since the chemicals can be transferred to infants, who haven’t built up immunity to environmental hazards.
- The overwhelming scientific consensus is that breast milk is still the healthiest food source for infants, despite any contaminants it may carry.
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Most people are exposed to toxic chemicals like BPA and phthalates every day. Though it’s common to find these pollutants in household items like plastic bottles and food packaging, they’re often present in such low doses that they don’t present a threat to human health.
But in recent years scientists have drawn particular attention to toxic chemicals in breast milk since it’s consumed by infants.
Infants are especially vulnerable to the effects of chemicals because their metabolic pathways haven’t built up immunity to environmental hazards. They also weigh less, so their exposure could be higher.
Here are some of the common pollutants found in breast milk, which is still the healthiest food source for babies.
Flame retardants in mattresses and sofas can leach into breast milk.
Babies can ingest Bisphenol A (BPA) through breast milk, but they’re likely to ingest higher doses from canned food or plastic containers.
Concentrations of pesticides in breast milk may decrease over time.
Scientists are still figuring out the link between pesticides and human disease, but studies have indicated that exposure to certain pesticides may cause cancers like leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Pesticides have also been linked to autism risk in infants and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and young teens.
Though many women in developing countries like Costa Rica and Zimbabwe are exposed to pesticides through agricultural work, a 2016 study published in the journal Nature found that the concentrations of pesticides in breast milk “decreased significantly” over time. The study also found that no significant relationship between an infant’s pesticide exposure through breastfeeding and their height, weight, or body fat.
For now, the evidence doesn’t suggest that infants will experience adverse health effects from consuming pesticides through breast milk. But the CDC has yet to determine how much pesticide exposure is safe for breastfeeding.
Phthalates are banned from children’s products in the US, but they’re still found in detergents and shampoos.
Phthalates are part of the plasticizer family, a class of substances that make plastic durable and flexible. Although Congress instituted a federal ban on phthalates in toys and children’s products in 2008, the chemicals are still found in items like vinyl flooring, shower curtains, detergents, and shampoos.
A 2006 study found that exposure to phthalates through breast milk may affect the reproductive hormones of three-month-old boys. The authors note, however, that the effects were “subtle” and shouldn’t be used as a case against breastfeeding, especially since phthalates are found in other nutrition sources such as formula.
A 2011 study published in Environment International also determined that an infant’s exposure to phthalates from breast milk isn’t likely to pose a significant health risk, but further research is needed to determine how widespread this exposure may be.
Low amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can be passed through breastfeeding, but indoor air is a much bigger threat.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can be released by burning plastic or wood, but they’re also emitted by thousands of consumer products. The chemical class has been linked to cancer and liver, kidney, and nervous system damage, though the health effects vary depending on the chemical in question.
In 2007, researchers from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health determined that infant exposure to VOCs through breast milk was relatively low. Their study found that infants ingested up to 135 times more VOCs through indoor air than through breastfeeding.
Researchers found PFAS in breast milk in at least 19 countries.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) are a class of chemicals linked to cancer, liver damage, thyroid disease, and developmental issues. The chemicals became popular in the US around the 1940s, when manufacturing companies realized they resist heat, grease, stains, and water.
Since then, scientists have discovered that PFAS can linger in water and air for thousands of years, landing them the nickname “forever chemicals.” Consuming or inhaling them means they could stay in the body for life.
A 2015 study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that breastfeeding is “an important exposure pathway” for PFAS in infants. According to the researchers, an infant’s PFAS concentrations can increase up to 30% for every month that they’re breastfed.
Another study, published in 2018, detected breast milk with PFAS among sample populations in at least 19 countries.
Despite the presence of pollutants in breast milk, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that breastfeeding is still the healthiest food source for infants.