Understanding POP Exposure Risks from Breast Milk

By Michelle Werts posted 03-26-2014 05:55 PM


Today’s session titled “Understanding the Implications of Breastfed Infant Exposure to POPs: How Can We Do Better?” focused on the discussion of methods for estimating breastfed infant exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and the potential application of these methods in human health risk assessment.

Presenting during the session were:

  • Judy S. LaKind, PhD, president of LaKind Associates, LLC;
  • Mike Poulsen, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality;
  • Hisham A. El-Masri, PhD, US EPA; and
  • Sami Haddad, PhD, Université de Montréal.

Dr. LaKind’s presentation focused on providing an overview of the use of human milk as a biomonitoring matrix, while also reminding attendees of the importance of conducting careful communication of any information derived from biomonitoring studies.

Mike Poulson discussed how the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has been conducting risk calculations of infant exposure to pollutants through breast milk to inform site clean-up plans. While performing one of these calculations for an Oregon Superfund site, the department discovered that mothers consuming resident fish contaminated PCBs posed the greatest risk to breastfeeding infants. Thus, the team was able to make plans to help mitigate this risk.

Meanwhile, Dr. El-Masri presented a model that estimates the rate of PCB excretion in milk and described the utility of his model for predicting PCB levels in milk.

Dr. Haddad capped the session by sharing a model for predicting children’s internal exposures to POPs during the early years of their life. He also identified key windows of exposure that might result in adverse health risks.

The session co-chairs, David G. Farrer, PhD, Oregon Health Authority, and Geniece M. Lehmann, PhD, US Environmental Protection Agency, conveyed to me that they hoped people who attended the session walked away with a better understanding of the biological modeling methods available to support dose response and exposure assessment for breastfeeding exposures to POPs. 

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