Breast Feeding

New Flame Retardants Found in Breast Milk Raise Concerns about Public Health

Breast milk is often referred to as “liquid gold” for many reasons, and one of them is its impressive ability to filter out harmful substances. In fact, breastfeeding is so effective at protecting babies from contaminants that the World Health Organization recommends it even in areas with high levels of pollution. Breast milk contains special immune cells and enzymes that work together to flush out toxic elements like heavy metals and pesticides before they reach a baby’s delicate system. For this reason it’s always concerning when contaminants and chemicals are found in breast milk.

In recent research, scientists have discovered a new set of flame retardants in the breast milk of 50 women in the United States. This comes after a previous flame retardant, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), was phased out due to health risks. However, the presence of these new compounds suggests that the issue may not be resolved.

breast feeding mom with breast pump in forefront

Flame retardants, including PBDEs and the newly detected compounds, were originally developed in the 1970s to prevent fires in household electronics and appliances. Unfortunately, these chemicals are found in many everyday products, exposing us to them regularly through dust and air.

What makes matters worse is that these flame retardant compounds are persistent and can remain in the body for years. So even though PBDEs were phased out, traces of them are still found in breast milk.

Research indicates that exposure to PBDEs during pregnancy and infancy may affect hormone levels and lead to developmental issues in children. This is a significant concern considering the potential impact on nervous system development.

While the Environmental Protection Agency banned PBDEs in 2009, companies began using substitutes that were structurally and behaviorally similar.

The new study, published in Environmental Pollution, analyzed the breast milk of 50 mothers in Seattle and detected a total of 25 flame retardants, including 16 replacement chemicals and nine phased-out PBDEs. One particular type of flame retardant, bromophenols, was found in 88% of the samples. This compound has a similar structure to PBDEs and can potentially affect thyroid function.

The study focused on a small sample size of women in the Seattle area and included predominantly white, well-educated individuals. It’s findings raises questions about the socioeconomic impact of these chemicals. Will lower-income populations be more exposed to them?

While the health implications of these new compounds are still being studied, some states and the European Union have implemented stricter regulations and bans on brominated flame retardants. Experts argue that broader class bans would be more effective in protecting public health.

In conclusion, this new research highlights the ongoing concerns surrounding flame retardants in breast milk and the need for further investigation into their potential health effects.

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About the author

Lisa Arneill

Founder of Growing Your Baby and World Traveled Family. Canadian mom of 2 boys, photo addict, lover of bulldogs, and museumgoer. Always looking for our next vacation spot!

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