Breastfeeding is normally considered to be the best choice for infants. However, a new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology suggests that breastfed babies are more exposed to toxins in the form of industrial chemicals categorised perfluorinated alkylate substances (PFASs).
The findings reveal that the longer the baby is breastfed, the more does he become exposed to the PFAS’. The latter are chemicals applied to products like food packaging, clothing, and lubricants to make them resistant to water, grease and stains; they can bioaccumulate in food chains, and can thus persist in the body. The PFAS’ can hence be detected in the blood. Past studies have shown a correlation between the chemicals in the blood and immune system impairment, endocrine disruption and cancer.
One of the authors of the study, Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA, affirms that the PFAS’ have been found in the breast milk of women and can be passed to infants. Grandjean and his team wanted to find out whether there was a link between the duration of breastfeeding and accumulation of the chemicals in infants.
The blood samples of 81 children were taken at birth and when the children were 11 months, and 18 months old, and 5 years old, and analysed by the researchers.
The researchers found that infants who were exclusively breastfed had PFAS levels increase by 20-30 % for each month of breastfeeding. A lower increase was found in children who were partly breastfed.
According to this study, breastfeeding is the means of exposure to PFAS’ in infants. Does this mean breastfeeding is harmful and should be stopped? Not at all. Breastfeeding itself is not the problem.
“There is no reason to discourage breastfeeding, but we are concerned that these pollutants are transferred to the next generation at a very vulnerable age. Unfortunately, the current US legislation does not require any testing of chemical substances like PFASs for their transfer to babies and any related adverse effects,” says Grandjean.