A new study discovered that toxic man-made chemicals found in food packaging were also detected in 100% of all breast milk samples tested.
Published in the journal Environmental Science&Technology, the study revealed that toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs), which are found in food packaging, clothing, and other products, were found in 50 different samples of breast milk. The research further validates the theory that PFAS are "forever chemicals," meaning they have the ability to build up in people despite the chemical industry claiming current-use PFAS don't.
"We now know that babies, along with nature's perfect food, are getting toxic PFAS that can affect their immune systems and metabolism," Toxic-Free Future science director and study co-author Erika Schreder said in a statement shared with Eat This, Not That!
"We shouldn't be finding any PFAS in breast milk and our findings make it clear that broader phaseouts are needed to protect babies and young children during the most vulnerable stages of life. Moms work hard to protect their babies, but big corporations are putting these, and other toxic chemicals that can contaminate breast milk, in products when safer options are available."
Even though states and retailers have begun to take action to prohibit these chemicals in products, federal regulation is needed to have the greatest impact. And even though certain PFAS have reportedly been phased out over the years, the study (which is the first of its kind since 2005) strongly suggests these chemicals remain in the body after initial and repeated exposure.
After testing for 39 different PFAS, the researchers found that both current-use and phased-out ones currently contaminate breast milk. More specifically, 16 PFAS were detected in total—12 of which were found in more than 50% of the breast milk samples.
"These findings make it clear that the switch to newer PFAS over the last decade didn't solve the problem," Dr. Amina Salamova, study co-author and associate research scientist at Indiana University said. "This study provides more evidence that current-use PFAS are building up in people. What this means is that we need to address the entire class of PFAS chemicals, not just legacy-use variations."
Current national regulations fail to prevent PFAS from being used in most products which results in widespread exposure to potentially harmful chemicals, with evidence showing it can weaken the immune system. However, this doesn't mean women should stop breastfeeding their babies. Rather, this is an issue that needs to addressed at the national level so that women can feel assured their children aren't getting exposed to toxins.
As Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana, study co-author and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and Seattle Children's Research Institute stated, "While we know that PFAS chemicals may be harmful, it is important to remember that breast milk provides significant benefits to newborn and child health. Breast milk is still best for newborns."
For more, be sure to check out What Your Diet Should Look Like If You Have Gestational Diabetes, According to an RD.