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Breast-feeding still best despite environmental chemicals in human milk

The presence of environmental chemicals in human milk does not necessarily indicate health risks for infants, according to researchers.

"We strongly emphasize that the mere presence of an environmental chemical in human milk does not indicate that a health risk exists for breast-fed infants," said Cheston M. Berlin, Jr., M.D., Penn State University professor of pediatrics and pharmacology. "All information gathered to date supports the positive health value of breast-feeding for infants."

Few, if any, adverse effects have been documented as being associated with consumption of human milk containing background levels of environmental chemicals, and none have been clinically or epidemiologically demonstrated, adds Judy S. LaKind, Ph.D., adjunct associate professor of pediatrics, Penn State College of Medicine, Penn State Children's Hospital at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. LaKind, Berlin and Michael Bates, University of California at Berkeley, published an overview article of findings from The Second Workshop on Human Milk Surveillance and Biomonitoring for Environmental Chemicals in the United States in the September issue (volume 68, number 20) of Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health-Part A.

At the workshop, experts from academia, industry, nonprofit organizations and the federal government explored issues related to the use of human milk biomonitoring for environmental chemicals (including a wide range of chemicals to which women may be exposed - industrial chemicals, chemicals in personal care and home/yard products, pharmaceuticals, and recreational and illicit drugs) for understanding human exposure and health, and evaluating and communicating possible human health risk.

Four areas were explored: human milk research designed to answer questions about health; exposure assessment issues; human health risk assessment; and methods for facilitating human milk research.

"Breast-feeding is widely accept
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Contact: Amy Buehler-Stranges
abuehlerstranges@psu.edu
717-531-7272
Penn State
22-Sep-2005


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