Research finds pesticide levels in WA breast milk lowest in world

October 18, 2016

A baby breastfeedingResearchers at The University of Western Australia and Murdoch University have found that levels of pesticides in breast milk have dropped significantly during the past 40 years.

The research, published in the international journal Chemosphere, was led by UWA’s internationally renowned human lactation researcher Emeritus Professor Peter Hartmann, Dr Donna Geddes and Murdoch’s Associate Professor Robert Trengove.

Professor Hartmann, a senior research fellow with UWA’s School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, said the research revealed there had been a 42-fold decrease in levels of pesticides detected in breast milk since the 1970s.

He said the research demonstrated the effectiveness of State Government legislation to prohibit such pesticides in WA, leading to the decrease of human exposure to them over time.

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) include organochlorine pesticides, organophosphate pesticides, pyrethroids and carbamate pesticides, which were widely used in agricultural practice to kill pests.

The study recruited 40 West Australian breastfeeding mothers who had an average age of 33 years and found the daily intake of POPs by infants was at least 59-fold below recommended guidelines, indicating that WA infants were not at risk from pesticides in their mother’s milk.

The levels observed in the study were also among the lowest reported in Australia and worldwide.

Professor Hartmann said breastfeeding mothers should feel reassured by the findings and not be concerned about pesticides passing through their milk to their babies.

Professor Trengove said the analysis of the breast milk was done in the Separation Science and Metabolomics Laboratory at Murdoch.

“We also developed a new technique which meant only 1ml of milk was required for analysis, instead of the usual 10ml or more," he added. "This is a significant development for the processing of biological samples like human breast milk.

“We can now do more with less. The current methods screen for more than 75 pesticide residues but our new technique is increasing this number, and detecting pesticides at much lower levels than before, despite the sample sizes being a lot smaller.”

Print This Post Print This Post

Leave a comment

You can use these tags : <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

We read every comment and will make every effort to approve each new comment within one working day. To ensure speedy posting, please keep your comments relevant to the topic of discussion, free of inappropriate language and in-line with the editorial integrity of this newsroom. If not, your comments may not be published.

Thanks for commenting!