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A study reveals that more than 80% of breast milk has arsenic and mercury

An investigation carried out in Granada has analyzed samples from the breast milk bank and has requested their constant monitoring after finding arsenic in almost all of them, with higher levels than in other parts of Europe, and in more than 80% traces of mercury.

A team made up of experts from the CIBER for Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBERESP) and the Biosanitary Research Institute of Granada (ibs.GRANADA) has analyzed the presence of environmental contaminants in breast milk, data linked to the mother’s diet, environment or habits.

The study used samples from the Milk Bank of the Virgen de las Nieves hospital in Granada and detected higher arsenic levels than those found in other studies in Spain and Europe and similar levels of mercury.

The work has analyzed the concentration of mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenic in 242 milk samples obtained between 2015 and 2018 from 83 donor mothers and has linked that data to information on your socio-demographic, reproductive and lifestyle factors and hygiene habits of these women.

The donors who participated in the study had an average age of 33 years, almost half had more than one child, 61% had a college education, 47% were former smokers and three out of ten were overweight or obese.

The metals studied are common environmental pollutants to which the general population is exposed, mainly through diet, and are associated with various health problems, especially when exposure occurs during pregnancy or the first years of life.

“Breast milk is, by consensus, the best food source for the baby, providing numerous nutrients and benefits for the infant; but it could also be a pathway of childhood exposure to environmental contaminants present in the mother’s body”, explained the head of the CIBERESP group at ibs.GRANADA, Nicolás Olea.

The study found arsenic in 97% of the samples, mercury in 81%, lead in almost half (51%) and cadmium by 38% of the analyzed milk.

“Compared to other European and national studies, such as those carried out in Madrid (2003-2004) and Santiago de Compostela (2018-2019), the concentrations of metals in donor milk from Granada were higher for arsenic, similar for mercury and quite low for lead and cadmium”, detailed the main author of the study, Carmen Freire.

Olea has underlined that, given the vulnerability of infants and especially premature babies hospitalized patients who receive milk from the bank, it would be necessary to routinely monitor the presence of these environmental toxins in the milk and give recommendations on healthy habits to donor mothers.

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