Scientists from Granada have analyzed samples of breast milk from donor mothers and have requested their constant monitoring after finding arsenic in almost all of them, with higher levels than in other parts of Europe, and in more than 80% traces of mercury. .
A team made up of experts from the CIBER for Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBERESP) and the Biosanitary Research Institute of Granada (ibs.GRANADA) has analyzed the presence of environmental contaminants in breast milk, data linked to food, the environment or mother’s habits.
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Environmental contaminants in breast milk
The study, published in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, has used samples from the Milk Bank of the Virgen de las Nieves hospital in Granada to analyze the concentration of mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenic in 242 milk samples obtained between 2015 and 2018 of 83 donor mothers.
Likewise, they have collected sociodemographic, reproductive and lifestyle factors and hygiene habits of these women, according to the University of Granada.
The metals studied are common environmental pollutants to which the general population is exposed mainly through diet, and are associated with various health problems, especially when exposure occurs during pregnancy or the first years of life. Therefore, pregnant women and children are especially vulnerable to these exposures.
As explained by the head of the CIBERESP group at ibs.GRANADA, Nicolás Olea, “breast milk is, by consensus, the best source of food for the baby, providing numerous nutrients and benefits for the infant; but it could also be a way of child exposure to environmental contaminants present in the mother’s body” .
In this study, it was observed that most of the samples (97%) had arsenic, 81% mercury, half (51%) lead and 38% cadmium .
Arsenic concentrations were higher in breast milk from primiparous donors, while mercury concentrations were higher in donors with higher consumption of fatty fish and meat and lower in samples from women with higher consumption of dairy products and in those collected after a longer postpartum. Check out more article on NYC Parenting Voice.
Lead detection, higher in ex-smokers
Likewise, lead detection was higher among multiparous donors, those who gained weight after pregnancy and former smokers, and was lower in samples collected more recently and from donors with higher consumption of red meat and eggs. Cadmium detection was higher in samples from donors who reported higher consumption of fried and canned food and was lower in samples from donors who consumed bread more frequently.
Given these results, Nicolás Olea considers that “as suggested by the European initiative in Human Biomonitoring (HBM4EU), given the vulnerability of infants and especially hospitalized premature babies who receive milk from the bank, it would be necessary to routinely monitor the presence of these environmental toxins in milk and give recommendations on healthy habits to donor mothers” .