Does your breastmilk have perchlorate?
A study has detected perchlorate in breastmilk of lactating women. The overall effect on humans is still being analysed - but what does it mean for you and your baby?
A preliminary study of 36 women in America has detected perchlorate in breastmilk of lactating women. Perchlorate is a salt found naturally in the environment and is used for several manufacturing purposes.
The chemical is used in rocket fuel and fireworks, gun powder and other explosives. It has also been used in the tanning, leather and rubber manufacture industries.
What are the dangers of perchlorate?
Inconclusive studies show a myriad range of effects perchlorate has on the human body. One study states that, in large doses, it may inhibit uptake of iodine in the body and also inhibit iodine secretion in breastmilk. This is supported in a study published by ACS publications stating that the presence of perchlorate in breastmilk lowers the iodide content and may impair thyroid development in infants.
It was thought that iodine levels in breastmilk may be significantly lower than 20 years ago. It was further stated that the recommended daily intake of iodine by pregnant and lactating women may need to be increased.
Why do we need iodine?
The body uses iodine for thyroid hormones which control metabolism and help with the development of the baby’s brain and bones during pregnancy and infancy.
According to the National Research Council’s study of Health Implications of Perchlorate Ingestion (p30, 43-44), “Lower intakes [of iodine] are associated with increasing frequency of thyroid enlargement (goiter), biochemical evidence of thyroid hormone deficiency, and ultimately, in people with severe iodine deficiency, hypothyroidism… If inhibition of iodine uptake were prolonged, the result should be iodide deficiency in the thyroid, similar to that which occurs in dietary iodide deficiency, and with the same consequences and compensation.”
- Study 1: Boston
A study intended to analyse the correlation between the iodine and perchlorate in breastmilk was conducted among 100 lactating women in Boston. The results show that breastmilk iodine content was significantly correlated with urinary iodine per gram of creatinine and urinary cotinine.
It was not significantly correlated with breastmilk or urinary perchlorate. The research concluded that perchlorate exposure was not significantly correlated with breastmilk iodine concentrations.
47% of women sampled may have been providing breastmilk with insufficient iodine to meet infants’ requirements.
- Study 2: Chile
An epidemiologic study among pregnant women from three cities in northern Chile was conducted to measure the perchlorate level in the public drinking water. It was hypothesised that long-term exposure to perchlorate at these levels may also cause thyroid problems for the mother in early stages of gestation or for the baby before and after birth.
However, the study found no evidence to support the hypothesis. Neonatal birth weight, length, and head circumference were no different among the 3 cities and were consistent with current U.S. norms. (Téllez, 2005).
- Study 3. America
Research carried out by the American Chemical Society in 2008 looked at the perchlorate, thiocyanate, and iodine excretion in the urine and breastmilk of 13 women.
The results showed that 12 of the 13 infants did not have an adequate intake of iodine as defined by the Institute of Medicine. In addition, 9 out of the 13 infants were likely ingesting perchlorate at a level exceeding the reference dose suggested by the National Academy of Science panel. (American Chemical Society, 2008).
Should we be worried?
There has been no research about the presence of perchlorate in women living in Asia. The preliminary research of perchlorate in US women, shows that it is common in lactating mums and traces of it can be found naturally in water, fruits and vegetables throughout New Jersey and most of the United States. While there may be a potential threat to human health, especially to developing infants and children, it is still unclear what the overall effects are.
So should you stop breastfeeding?
In a statement to the press, the senior author of the Texas Tech Breast Milk Study shared this: “Despite my paper finding percholate in breastmilk, I would like to assure you that even in my wildest imagination, it did not cross my mind to advise someone to stop breastfeeding just because perchlorate is detectable in breast milk. There are so many physiologic and psychological benefits of breastfeeding.
I truly regret if our paper has caused any one to stop breast feeding even for a day. Also, one needs to recognise that with improved detection technologies, we can detect almost anything at some level in almost anything. Our study was funded out of our pockets and internal funds – it is too-small – it is preliminary – and it is far from perfect. No sweeping generalisations are in order and were not intended.”
He goes on to add, “There is nothing more beautiful than a mother breastfeeding a child.”
This article was updated with the key points made from the statement by Purnendu K Dasgupta, Senior Author of the Texas Tech Breast Milk Study, which addressed the concerns regarding Precholorate in Breastmilk.
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