In which regions is breast-feeding safer from the impact of toxic elements from the environment?
Owing to its unique nutritional and immunological characteristics, breast milk is the most important food source for infants. But, children are at greater risk for exposure to environmental toxicants from breast milk. The aim of this study was to evaluate the influence of environmental pollution on essential and toxic element contents of breast milk and determine the risky locations in our population. This study was conducted on women who were breastfeeding (n=90). Milk samples were collected at three locations in Marmara region, Turkey: highly industrialized region highly affected by pollution, urbanized region moderately and rural area that is affected little. Breast milk samples (5 mL) were collected at approximately one month postpartum (mature milk). The concentrations of cadmium (Cd), cobalt (Co), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), nickel (Ni), lead (Pb) and zinc (Zn) in milk samples were compared to the milk samples coming from different locations. Lead, cadmium, nickel, chromium, iron and manganese levels in the breast milk are highest and engrossing especially in rural areas compared to the other regions but cobalt, copper, zinc levels are highest in highly industrial areas. The levels of essential and toxic elements in breast milk can vary in different regions. The levels presented in our study are above some countries’ data albeit not at toxic levels. Because of global effects, environmental pollution is not the problem for industrializing regions only. Rural area also may not be safe for breastfeed babies.