Exposure of nursing mothers to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons: Levels of un-metabolized and metabolized compounds in breast milk, major sources of exposure and infants' health risks

Marta Oliveira, Sofia Duarte, Cristina Delerue-Matos, Angelina Pena, Simone Morais
Environmental Pollution 2020 July 14, 266 (Pt 3): 115243
In this study, biomonitoring of nursing Portuguese mothers to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) exposure and assessment of potential health risks of their infants were performed through determination of 18 PAHs and 6 major metabolites (OH-PAHs) in breast milk. Concentrations of total PAHs ranged between 55.2 and 1119 ng/g fat, being naphthalene, dibenz(a,h)anthracene, benzo(g,h,i)perylene, and phenanthrene the most abundant compounds (68.4% of ∑PAHs). Benzo(a)pyrene, known carcinogenic, was not detected. Total levels of OH-PAHs ranged from 6.66 to 455 ng/g fat with 1-hydroxyphenanthrene, 1-hydroxynaphthalene and 1-hydroxyacenaphthene as major compounds (96% of ∑OH-PAHs). Concentrations of ∑PAHs and ∑OH-PAHs were strongly correlated between each other (r = 0.692; p ≤ 0.001) and moderately-to-strongly associated with individual compounds (0.203 < r < 0.841; p ≤ 0.001). The attained data suggest increased levels of PAHs in older nursing mothers (>30 years) and in those whose child had lower weight (up to 3.0 kg). Breast-fed infant presented a median PAHs daily intake of 1.41 μg/kg body weight (total benzo(a)pyrene equivalents of 0.0679 μg/kg) and were exposed to 0.024 μg/kg body weight of ∑PAH4 [benz(a)anthracene, benzo(b)fluoranthene, benzo(j)fluoranthene, and chrysene]. Although breast milk is a secure food for newborns, un-metabolized and metabolized PAHs should be included in biomonitoring surveillance studies during breastfeeding to prevent potential health risks for infants.

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