PBDEs in Breastmilk

Compiled by Kelly Bonyata, IBCLC

There has been a large amount of press about studies that have detected flame retardant chemicals (polybrominated diphenyl ether, or PBDE) in the breastmilk of American and Canadian women. Following are links with more information.

Information on the studies

Health Canada

TSRI # 237 – Impact of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers on Canadian Environment and Health of Canadians. Health Canada Toxic Substances Research Initiative.

Environmental Screening Assessment Report on Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs). FAQ’s can be found here

Northwest Environment Watch – Feb. 2004

PDF Why Breastfeeding is Still Best for Baby

University of Texas

Study: Schecter A, Pavuk M, Papke O, Ryan JJ, Birnbaum L, Rosen R. Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) in U.S. Mothers’ Milk. Environ Health Perspect. 2003 Nov;111(14):1723-9.

Mothers’ Milk: Record levels of toxic fire retardants found in American mothers’ breast milk – news release and detailed report on the study from the Environmental Working Group

Responses to concerns about the study findings

Breastfeeding is safe for normal growth and development; not breastfeeding because of environmental pollutants will cause needless harm to infants. INFACT Canada Press release. June 9, 2004.

Contaminants have been found in human milk. Should I wean my baby? FAQ from LLLI. November, 2003.

Flame Retardant Pollutants by Thomas Hale, RPh, PhD. September 23, 2003

Breastfeeding Remains Best Choice in a Polluted World, LLLI Media Release. August 2003.

More information

Breastfeeding and Environmental Contaminants @

Flame Retardants: A General Introduction, Environmental Health Criteria Series No. 192, World Health Organization, Geneva, 1997. A good overview of the history, use, and dangers of flame retardants.

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