Mother could be passing on toxins through breast milk
We should be worried
Mother's milk should be pristine. After all that's the one food that provides newborns with all the nutrients and benefits their growing bodies require. Nutrition experts recommend that babies be breast fed for at least the first six months after birth. Organisations such as the United Nation's Children's Emergency Fund and the World Health Organization are strong votaries of breast feeding, and many countries even have laws that forbid breast milk substitutes, such as lactogen, in maternity wards of public hospitals. But now there are aspersions that pesticide residues have compromised breast milk.
Scientists believe that each suckle would add to the pbd levels in the infant's body. Says Michael Dourson, a toxicology expert consulted by Williams, "The infant is receiving one-seventh the exposure of the maximum pbd level believed to be safe. Above that level, we're not sure, but we become less confident. And at some point, it becomes unsafe." Arnold Schecter, of the University of Texas School of Public Health has a similar opinion. "No one at this time knows at what levels nursing is not the best approach, and in fact becomes harmful to babies. But such levels must exist,'' he contends.
The worried mother's article caused much consternation. Mothers in many parts of the world had their milk tested. And to their horror, Williams was not the only one whose breast milk was contaminated. Tests on breast milk and food in many parts of Australia showed alarming levels of pbds -- up to five times higher than in Europe, where some of these chemicals have already been banned.
Before things take a turn for the worse, leading maternity and children's hospitals in India such as the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, Post-Graduate Medical Institute, Chandigarh and the Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, should begin collecting milk samples of mothers undergoing ante natal care sessions. The samples should be tested for pbd, arsenic and other toxic contaminants, and adequate preventive steps should be taken.
More importantly, the analysis of these samples should form the basis for revamping maternity care programmes in the country. It is quite unfortunate that premier national clinical bodies such as the Federation of Gynecologists and Obstetricians of India have chosen to be silent. This is a wake up call to them to save our mothers from such deadly toxins in their milk.
Manu N Kulkarni is a former unicef representative to India and professor emeritus, Siddaganga Institute of Technology, Tumkur, Karnataka
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