Impact of ‘Forever Chemicals’ on Breastfeeding Duration Revealed in New Research

United States – New research shows that women who were contaminated by toxic “forever chemicals” called per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, before pregnancy are more likely to be unable to breastfeed soon after giving birth.

Research on PFAS and Breastfeeding

The research followed lactating intervals for 811 recent mothers in New Hampshire and saw that better PFAS levels delayed or framed lactation wholly in half a year, as reported by The Guardian.

Speaking to STAT, Megan Romano, an epidemiologist at Dartmouth University and the lead author of the study, noted, “These findings are cause for concern. ”

“For all women who are exposed, there’s a little bit of a decrease in the amount of time they breastfeed beyond delivery,” Romano said.

Findings and Implications

PFAS are a group of roughly 16,000 chemicals employed to make things chemically inert to water, stains, and heat. These chemicals are often referred to as ‘forever chemicals’ because they are resistant to degradation and are ingested by people. The chemicals are associated with incidences of cancer, birth abnormalities, liver ailment, thyroid ailment, low sperm count levels, and many other diseases.

A study conducted in 2021 focused on 20 researchers; all of them contained levels in milk ranging from 50 ppt to more than 1,850 ppt. Currently, there is no limit for PFAS in breast milk, but the Environmental Protection Agency came up with a legal limit of 4 ppt for some types of PFAS in water as it was discovered that virtually no amount of the compound could be safe.

However, studies conducted earlier this year indicated that the chemicals lower the nutritional value of milk.

Impact on Breastfeeding Rates

This new research revealed that increased exposure led to increased risk; 28 % of moms stopped exclusive breastfeeding before half a year, and some even stopped breastfeeding all together.

A paltry 32 percent of US moms breastfeed beyond 12 months, while recent World Health Organization and major pediatric recommendations are up to two years and beyond. The work may shed some insight into why most American mothers cease to breastfeed their offspring early, although other factors, such as socioeconomic could as well be the cause, according to Romano.

PFAS is recognized as an endocrine disruptor; however, the mechanism by which it reduces lactation periods has not been fully determined by researchers, according to Romano.

The present study examined 5 types of PFAS and showed they most significantly affected PFOS and PFOA which are the most lethal and widely known types of PFAS.

Health and Safety Recommendations

The problem arises for the fact that PFAS is everywhere, and people cannot protect themselves easily. Main exposure avenues include food and water, Romano stated that testing the water and consuming a balanced diet are helpful approaches. She also recommended the use of a HEPA air filtration system in the home in order to prevent the spread of PFAS that may be present in dust and air.

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