Beware of non-stick cookware and stain resistant fabrics. They harbour chemicals that are turning up in surprising places, from wildlife and drinking water supplies to human blood. Now, these suspected carcinogens have also been detected in samples of milk from nursing mothers.
Although perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, are found in human blood around the world, including newborns, this is the first ever study to document their occurrence in human milk, said Kathleen Arcaro of the University of Massachusetts, one of the researchers who made the detection.
"While nursing does not expose infants to a dose that exceeds recommended limits, breast milk should be considered as an additional source of PFCs when determining a child's total exposure," she said.
The breast milk was collected as part of a larger, ongoing study examining the link between environmental exposures and breast cancer risk.
Chemical analyses were conducted by Kuruntachalam Kannan's lab at the New York State Department of Health. Results are scheduled for publication in Environmental Science and Technology.
Milk samples were collected in 2004 from 45 nursing mothers in Massachusetts and analysed for nine different PFCs, reports Sciencedaily.
Perfluorooctane-sulfonate (PFOS), used to make stain-resistant fabrics, was found in the highest concentration in breast milk, followed by perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), used in nonstick cookware.
On average, each litre of milk, roughly equivalent to one quart, contained 131 billionths of a gram of PFOS and 44 billionths of a gram of PFOA.
Food sources of PFCs include grease-resistant packaging such as microwave popcorn bags and pizza boxes, as well as fish and other animals that contain these chemicals. Exposure can also come from personal care products including dental floss and shampoo.
PFCs are persistent chemicals that can linger in the environment and the human body for years without being broken down. Several studies have documented their presence in the blood of newborns collected immediately after birth.