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Environmental pollutants may affect infant growth

Posted:  Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Norwegian researchers evaluated the effect of two banned organic environmental pollutants namely polychlorinated biphenyl 153 (PCB153) and p,p'-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (p,p'-DDE) on infant growth. Due to the long half lives of these pollutants accumulate and become concentrated in the food chain. Humans are exposed to them via seafood and breast milk. A study by Norwegian Institute of Public Health has found that exposure to these pollutants could result in adverse effects on infant growth

The chemical PCB153 is used in windows and electrical equipments, a once common occurrence in Norway till its ban in 1990 whereas DDE is metabolite of a pesticide and is used for malaria control.

This study accumulated data of 2500 mother-child pairs from 7 European birth cohort studies. They then used an advanced model for estimating exposure in the breastfeeding period. The results of the study were published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The researchers found that maternal levels of DDE, indicating in-utero exposure, was significantly associated with rapid growth in early life. In contrast, levels of PCB153 in breast milk and the amount transferred through breastfeeding was associated with decreased infant growth and falling below expected growth curves.

Talking about the study, the researchers said, “Although PCB and DDE levels have declined markedly over the last 20 years, our study shows that even the lower levels that European infants are exposed to today may affect their development. This is important information for regulatory bodies, and emphasises the need to continue to reduce these pollutants in the environment.”The researchers also suggest establishment of breastfeeding recommendation taking in to account the amount of these pollutants transferred through breast milk.

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