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Possible link between pollutants within human breast milk and oligospermia

New research by scientists at the CSIC, at Instituto Marques, and at the University of la Coruña, have analyzed the levels of endocrine disruptor pollutants within breast milk of a group of Spanish women. 34 women were from Catalonia, an industrialized region in the northeast of Spain, and 35 were from rural areas in Galicia, in the northwest of Spain.

Two samples of human breast milk. Photo: Azoreg. Creative Commons.

The results show that the pollutants level in the breast milk of women from Catalonia is 4 times higher than in women from Galicia. Former studies by the same scientists had demonstrated that oligospermia (the deficiency of sperm cells in the semen) prevalence is also higher in Catalonia than in Galicia.

As the scientists explain, the new study “adds weight to the hypothesis that pollutants transmission from mother to baby during pregnancy and breastfeeding could be one key factor to explain male infertility”.

Accumulation of pollutants in the human body comes from many years of environmental exposure to pollutants. Endocrine disrupter pollutants are stored in fat or, in other cases such as perfluorates compounds, are stored in proteins. Eventually, many of these pollutants end up in the breast milk because it has a high content in fat and proteins.

In the new study, published in the Revista Internacional de Andrología, 38 compounds have been detected, such as polychlorinated byphenyl (PCB), organochlorades pesticides, polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs) and perfluorates (PFC). Four of the 69 analyzed samples were clean of pollutants and were in all cases from Galicia.


Institut de Diagnòstic Ambiental i Estudis de l'Aigua (CSIC)

Instituto Marques. Estudio sobre tóxicos en leche materna y semen

Paper:  Rev Int Androl.2011; 09 :41-9

Prenatal Exposure to Organochlorine Compounds and Birth Size