SOT Annual Meeting Informational Session on Exposures: Breast Is Best

By Izabela Korwel posted 04-03-2014 13:39


An Informational Session, Understanding the Implications of Breastfed Infant Exposures to POPs: How Can We Do Better?, was held on March 26, 2014 during the 53rd SOT Annual Meeting, held this year in Phoenix, Arizona. A summary of this session is provided below.

As Judy LaKind, the first presenter, explained, there are huge health benefits derived from breastfeeding for the health of the baby. Breastfeeding prevents many diseases, some early in life (such as reduction in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), to lower risk for diabetes or certain cancers in post-menopausal women, much later in life.

And while there are some studies from which the conclusion can be drawn that "breast milk is the most contaminated human food," we really do not have that much information. The studies that are published (and there is altogether less then 50 of those, at least for PCBs) have limited geographical spread and number of samples. At the same time, we also can expect that alternatives, such as feeding babies formula, is not going to be free of chemicals and will come with its own risks.

The next three speakers of the session focused on presenting approaches to modeling risk assessment. Michael Polsen used data from environmental samples from the PCB–contaminated Portland harbor to model cancer and noncancer health effects in babies. Hisham El-Masri took data from a published study in rhesus monkeys. The animals were exposed to Aroclor mixtures before pregnancy, during, and while breastfeeding. He used the data to extrapolate to the human situation. Sami Haddad presented a model, the most complex, that actually predicted well mother and infant blood levels and breast milk contamination for Inuit population, exposed to high levels of POPs.

Although the session was held during lunch time, it still gathered enough interested parties for a lively discussion at the end of presentations. The single conclusion drawn, however, was that only reduction of life-time exposure in women by cleaning up the environment can prevent breast milk exposure. And, with the exception of rare cases of really high PCBs and other POP levels, there is no better alternative than to breast feed.

For more informaiton on this session, please visit the SOT 2014 Annual Meeting Mobile Event Website.