Breastfed infants are receiving up to 17 times the tolerable amount of dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), according to the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment.
The survey included samples of human milk from 63 mothers at three different sites.
The committee also found that infants and young children who take certain bottled fish liver oils may be receiving high levels of PCBs and dioxins. The Department of Health advises that fish oil supplements are unnecessary for children under the age of 4 who are receiving a varied diet.
The authors stress that the report is intended to assess the state of the environment and the food we eat and not to discourage breastfeeding the benefits of which so still vastly outweigh the theoretical risks (BMJ, 1997, 314: 1505).