More than 350 pollutants found in breast milk

MORE THAN 350 contaminants have been found in breast milk. They include chemicals from perfumes, suntan oil, and dry-cleaning fluids, as well as pesticides and industrial raw materials, some of which cause cancer, impair the immune system and disrupt sex hormones.

Most seriously, an authoritative scientific report to be published tomorrow will show that two-month-old British infants are taking in 42 times the safe level of dioxin in breast milk.

The Government is to start a major survey to gather further evidence on the extent of the contamination. The survey will analyse the milk for a vast range of pollutants, including dioxins, pesticides, "gender bender" chemicals that disrupt hormones and have been found to cause bizarre sex changes in animals, and toxic metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic.

The report was commissioned by the World Wide Fund for Nature, UK, from Gwynne Lyons, a new member of the Health and Safety Executive's advisory committee on toxic substances. It discloses "widespread contamination of mother's milk".

The report not only shows that highly poisonous dioxins have been found in breast milk, but pesticides like DDT and lindane have also been found, as have PCBs, notoriously toxic chemicals used in a whole range of applications from electrical transformers to paint. Chemicals from dry-cleaning and nappy-bucket disinfectants had also been found.

In all, the report says, more than 350 chemicals have been found in breast milk in different studies around the world. "Some of the contaminants identified are known to have the ability to cause cancer and some are able to impair the immune system," it says. "Others are known to interfere with the normal functioning of the bodies' hormones." Mothers pass on chemicals that they have stored in their fat all their lives to their babies in their milk.

The report calls for "urgent action to reduce exposures". The Ministry of Agriculture is finalising the contract for a pilot study with Leeds University, which will take milk from more than 1,000 mothers in Yorkshire over the next 15 months, and analyse it and store it in an "archive". The plan is to expand this study nationwide.

Both the report and survey break a long-standing taboo because both environmentalists and Government have long been wary of calling attention to the pollution of breast milk, fearing that mothers might stop suckling their babies. They stress that breast milk is still best because it immunises children against infection, strengthens bonds with their mother and provides a better food than artificial formulas.

"Mothers should not give up breast feeding," Ms Lyons said yesterday. "Regulators should act to phase out substances that will pass on this toxic inheritance to the next generation."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn