Presentation Information

Merete Aase Eggesboe

Environmental Contaminants in Human Milk


According to a recent WHO/UN report, synthetic chemicals are a threat to human health. Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPS) are of special concern to humans since they bioaccumulate and biomagnify. Species on the top of the food chain pyramid such as humans are thus among the most heavily exposed. POPS is a group of chemicals compromising PCBs, DDT, Dioxin, Organic Pesticides, flame retardants, as well as the more recent contaminants perfluorinated compounds. They are ubiquitous in air, water and soil, food and humans. In spite of DDT being forbidden more than 40 years ago, both DDT and its metabolite DDE, are still found in breastmilk. This demonstrates the long legacy of these chemicals. The child is exposed to the mother's accumulated levels while in the womb since most of these chemicals pass to the uterus unrestricted, and through breast milk. In spite of declining levels of forbidden POPs we demonstrate that perinatal exposure to POPs are associated with adverse effects on infant health. Large multi-cohort studies encompassing many thousand mother-child pairs report adverse effects of these chemicals on growth and neurodevelopment, with an increased risk of obesity and behavioral disorders among those most heavily exposed.