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PCB levels higher in breast-fed than bottle-fed babies

   J.R., Breast milk:  A leading source of PCBs, Science News 152 (22): 
  344, November 29, 1997.
      Exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) - oily compounds
      that have been used as lubricants and insulating fluids - can
      diminish a child's ability to learn (SN: 11/11/95, p. 310).  A
      new Dutch study now indicates that Rotterdam preschoolers who
      were breast-fed during infancy possess 3.6 times as much of
      these neurotoxic chemicals in their blood plasma as do children
      who had been fed infant formula only.
      The study followed 173 children, slightly more than half of whom
      had been breast-fed as infants (usually more than 3 months).  By
      42 months of age, all the children carried at least some PCBs in
      their blood.  While prenatal exposures and childhood diet
      contributed some PCBs, breast milk proved the richest source,
      Svati Patandin of Sophia Children's Hospital in Rotterdam and
      her collegaues report in the October "American Journal of Public
      Health."  In fact, their data suggest that while the breast-fed
      infants were nursing, PCB concentrations in their blood "must
      have reached levels as high as their mothers."
      "To our knowledge," they observe, "no other study has measured
      plasma PCB levels in children - either formula-fed or breast-fed
      during infancy - in relation to environmental exposures to
      While many earlier studies attempted to quantify childhood
      exposure overall to the 209 PCBs, the Dutch researchers focused
      on just four representatives of this family of related
      chemicals.  As such,  notes Corine Koopman-Esseboom, a coauthor
      at Sophia Ch dren's Hospital, it's hard to directly compare the
      Rotterdam exposures to those reported for U.S. populations. 
      However, she says, the Dutch exposures "would appear comparable"
      to those linked with IQ deficits in Detroit youngsters last year
      (SN: 9/14/96, p. 165).
      Koopman-Esseboom administered developmental tests to the
      Rotterdam infants at ages 3, 10, and 18 months.  While the
      breast-fed babies had poorer muscle tone than the bottle-fed
      infants - something that she says was also sseen in the
      PCB-exposed Detroit children - the Dutch youngsters exhibited no
      mental delays when compared to formula-fed peers.  However, she
      notes that unpublished data from a follow-up looking for IQ
      deficits in the Dutch preschoolers "did find something."
      The solution, she and her coauthors argue, is not to forgo
      breast-feeding but to lower PCB concentrations in the food chain
      so mothers accumulate less in their milk. 
  Pat Costner
  P.O. Box 548, or 512 CR 2663
  Eureka Springs, Arkansas 72632 USA
  ph:  501-253-8440
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  em:  pat.costner@dialb.greenpeace.org