Breast Milk May Contain Environmental Pollutants

Posted: 01/06/2014  browse the blog archive
Breast Milk May Contain Environmental Pollutants

Several studies have found chemicals and other environmental toxicants in breast milk, the San Francisco Chronicle reported last weekend.  The high fat and protein content in breast milk attracts heavy metals and other contaminants that have been ingested or absorbed into the mother’s body, which are then passed on to their infants.

The article referenced one recent study in Environmental Health Perspectives, which studied mothers who lived in a community on the border of West Virginia and Ohio, where a DuPont plant had contaminated the drinking water with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which is used in processing plastics.  PFOA has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer and belongs to a broader class of chemicals called perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs), which are used in products such as stain-resistant sprays and nonstick cooking surfaces.  PFOAs were found in the mothers’ breast milk and were presumably being passed on to their infants through breastfeeding.

A UC Berkeley study—also referenced in the San Francisco Chronicle article—found polychlorinated biphenyls and pesticides in breast milk, both potential endocrine disrupters that can result in cancer.  Polychlorinated biphenyls, and chemicals found in many pesticides, are known to the State of California to cause cancer and developmental harm, and companies offering products for sale in California containing such chemicals must first provide consumers with a health hazard warning.

The Chanler Group represents citizen enforcers who, acting in the public interest, commence actions against businesses offering products for sale in California that contain chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm without first providing the health hazard warning required by Proposition 65. Citizen enforcers bringing Proposition 65 actions in the public interest may obtain a Court Judgment imposing civil penalties, an injunction requiring reformulation of products, and/or provision of health hazard warnings. The Chanler Group has represented citizen enforcers of Proposition 65 for more than twenty years.