Breastmilk is Nature’s perfect food for babies. Hundreds of scientific studies and the experiences of mothers tell us that breastfed babies are generally stronger and healthier than babies fed formula. Breastfed babies tend to be more resistant to disease early in life, and remain more resistant to diseases such as diabetes and cancer as they approach adulthood. Breastfeeding itself is an expression of love and care.
For decades, researchers have been testing breastmilk for the presence of toxic chemicals as a way to learn about the levels of toxic chemicals in all our bodies. Information from these biomonitoring studies tells us about the levels of toxic chemicals in everyone’s bodies, and can help inform good public health policy and good personal choices.
Breastmilk is especially useful for testing for the presence of chemicals called persistent organic pollutants (POPs), a set of chemicals strongly linked to adverse health outcomes. Many POPs chemicals are banned or severely restricted by a global treaty, the Stockholm Convention, which considers biomonitoring information from around the world critically important in guiding its decision-making.
But we need to talk about how breastmilk monitoring and the sharing of information about toxic chemicals in breastmilk can be done in ways that do not discourage women from breastfeeding. This is essential, because breastmilk remains the best food for babies and clearly helps babies withstand exposures to toxic chemicals found in our environment.
We need to discuss how biomonitoring might empower those women who step forward to offer breastmilk to be tested, hoping that their contribution will help lower the levels of toxic chemicals of everyone in their families, communities, and country. MaPP invites you to join researchers, environmental health advocacy groups, scientists and others in this very important discussion. Please join us!