Toxic chemicals used in nonstick coatings and stain-resistant fabrics were found in the breast milk of every woman tested in a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Researchers tested the milk from 45 different nursing mothers for two different varieties of perflourinated compounds (PFCs): perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C8. PFOA is used in nonstick coatings such as Teflon, while PFOS is an ingredient in stain-resistant fabric.
PFCs were found in the milk of every woman tested, at an average concentration of 131 billionths of a gram of PFOS and 44 billionths of a gram of PFOA per liter.
The researchers said that this concentration would expose infants to PFC levels below the maximum set by the British Food Standards Agency Committee, but noted that infants may also be exposed to PFCs from other sources.
"Breast milk should be considered as an additional source of PFCs when determining a child's [total] exposure," researcher Kathleen Arcaro said.
She urged parents to keep in mind that breastfeeding still provides important nutritional and immune system benefits to infants.
The researchers also found that concentrations of PFCs in the milk of women who were nursing for the first time actually increased during the first six months of nursing.
"This may be related to increased food intake to meet the energy demands of nursing, and changes in food consumption patterns," said Arcaro. "In a Canadian study, diet was shown to contribute 61 percent of a person's total daily [PFC] intake."
PFCs are persistent organic pollutants that resist environmental breakdown and instead accumulate in the bodies of living beings, including humans. Research has linked them to cancers, birth and developmental defects and disruptions of the hormonal system. They have been found in the blood of most adults tested around the world. Prior studies have also found that unborn children may absorb PFCs through their mother's blood.
The United States has not set any regulations for exposure to PFCs.
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