Toxic Chemicals in Breast Milk
Concerning Trends for Current-Use PFAS
This peer-reviewed study was published in Environmental Science & Technology on May 13, 2021 and was authored by Toxic-Free Future Science Director Erika Schreder and scientists at Indiana University, the University of Washington, and Seattle Children’s Research Institute. The study found PFAS “forever chemicals” in 100% of breast milk samples tested and that newer PFAS build up in people.
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This study, the first since 2004 to analyze PFAS in breast milk from mothers in the United States, found that 50 out of 50 women tested positive for PFAS, with levels ranging from 52 parts per trillion (ppt) to more than 500 ppt. Breast milk samples were tested for 39 different PFAS, including nine current-use compounds. Results found that both current-use and phased-out PFAS contaminate breast milk, exposing nursing infants to the effects of toxic chemicals. A total of 16 PFAS were detected with 12 found in more than 50% of the samples. The levels of PFAS that are currently in use in a wide range of products are rising in breast milk.
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From the Experts
“We now know that babies, along with nature’s perfect food, are getting toxic PFAS that can affect their immune systems and metabolism. We shouldn’t be finding any PFAS in breast milk and our findings make it clear that broader phaseouts are needed to protect babies and young children during the most vulnerable stages of life. Moms work hard to protect their babies, but big corporations are putting these, and other toxic chemicals that can contaminate breast milk, in products when safer options are available.”
Toxic-Free Future science director and study co-author
“These findings make it clear that the switch to newer PFAS over the last decade didn’t solve the problem. This study provides more evidence that current-use PFAS are building up in people. What this means is that we need to address the entire class of PFAS chemicals, not just legacy-use variations.”
Dr. Amina Salamova
Study co-author and associate research scientist at Indiana University
“Exposures to PFAS can weaken our immune system, making a person more vulnerable to infectious diseases. It is especially concerning to see exposures happening through bioaccumulation in breast milk, which then exposes a nursing child during a critical period of development.”
Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana
Study co-author and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Research Institute