2016 October: Pesticide Contamination of Breast Milk, down 42 fold since 1970. Pesticides: Persistent Organic Pollutants

Breastfeeding: Pesticide contamination among WA mums down 42-fold since 1970, study suggests


The levels of pesticides in breast milk have dropped significantly in Western Australia in the past 40 years and are now among the lowest in the world, research had found.

The study by the University of Western Australia and Murdoch University found the level of pesticides in breast milk has dropped 42-fold from 1970 to 2010.

The daily intake of pesticides by infants is now at least 59-fold below the amount that is considered safe, indicating that WA infants were not at risk from pesticides in their mother’s milk.

UWA Emeritus Professor Peter Hartmann said breastfeeding mothers should be reassured that they were not passing on pesticides to their child.

“It’s really very good news,” he said.

“They should feel very secure in the fact that there is not going to be any of these compounds in sufficient quantities to worry them at all.”

He said the research showed legislation to ban pesticides in WA in the 1970s had been effective.

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) include organochlorine pesticides, organophosphate pesticides, pyrethroids and carbamate pesticides, were widely used in agricultural practice to kill pests.

“The restriction of sale of these pesticides has had an enormous effect in bringing the levels down to very good levels,” he said.

According to Professor Hartmann, studies indicated the presence of pesticides could affect the growth and development of babies.

“Some of these compounds do mimic some of the bodies hormones, particularly oestrogen … so it is a bit of a problem if they are in high levels,” he said.

Professor Hartmann said the study measured 88 different compounds, and recruited 40 West Australian breastfeeding mothers who had an average age of 33 years.