Communicating human biomonitoring results to ensure policy coherence with public health recommendations: analysing breastmilk whilst protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding

Maryse Arendt

Environmental Health 2008, 7(Suppl 1):S6

This article addresses the problem of how to ensure consistency in messages communicating public health recommendations on environmental health and on child health. The World Health Organization states that the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding rank among the most effective interventions to improve child survival. International public health policy recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months, followed by continued breastfeeding with the addition of safe and adequate complementary foods for two years and beyond. Biomonitoring of breastmilk is used as an indicator of environmental pollution ending up in mankind. This article will therefore present the biomonitoring results of concentrations of residues in breastmilk in a wider context.

Through cohort studies researchers in environmental health have concluded that long-term breastfeeding counterbalances the effect of prenatal exposure to chemicals causing delay in mental and psychomotor development. Therefore caution should be exercised when presenting the results of biomonitoring of breastmilk. The results should be a motivation to enact strong legislation on chemicals and review the use of chemical substances present in breastmilk, but the results should not be used to undermine the confidence in breastmilk as the optimal food for infants and young children.

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