Study: breast milk could pose danger for Tunisian babies

The scientific research finds breast milk in Tunisia highly contaminated with chemicals compounds

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Breast milk is widely accepted as the healthiest form of nutrition for infants, but for Tunisian babies the mother’s milk could pose a serious danger.

A recent study published on Environmental Research journal found “widespread and elevated contamination” of women’s breast milk in Tunisia with banned chemicals, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), organochlorine (OC) pesticides.

The concentrations of these chemicals were found in 237 human breast milk samples collected from 12 locations in the North African country.

“Concentrations of DDTs in human breast milk from rural areas were significantly higher than those from urban locations,” according to the study. High dairy and meat intake was cited as one of the reasons behind the high level of contamination in breast milk taken from rural women.

The Stockholm Convention on POP, which seeks to eliminate the pollutants by restraining their production, use and sale. The Global Environment Facility has given the country $16.7 million to help eliminate the chemical compounds by 2017.

The Stockholm Convention currently focuses on 12 POPs of immediate concern — often referred to as “the dirty dozen”— pesticides, industrial chemicals, and unintentional byproducts, according to a report by the Global Environment Facility.

The pesticides are aldrin, chlordane, DDT, diel-drin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene (HCB), mirex, and toxaphene; the industrial chemicals are polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and HCB (also mentioned under “pesticides”); and the unintentional byproducts are dioxin and furans (as well as PCBs and HCB). Unintentional chemical byproducts result from combustion and industrial processes and are among the most potent cancer-causing chemicals known.

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