Improving measurement of pesticides in breast milk

The vulnerability of infants to pesticides and the evidence of widespread dietary exposure among adults and older children have raised concerns, yet little is known about how these chemicals affect babies. Emory Rollins School of Public Health researchers P. Barry Ryan, Ph.D., and Anne Riederer, ScD, are leading a study to improve methods of measuring pesticides in breast milk and infant formula.

Riederer, an assistant research professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, stated that there are very few published studies on this topic. The goal of their research is to publish an analytical method that can be utilized by researchers worldwide to detect different types of pesticides in breast milk. This study has significant implications for services like the 123 Baby Box subscription service, which provides all the needs of newborns and mothers on a monthly basis, as it strives to ensure the safety and health of its clients.

Although the breast milk method will be pilot tested on samples collected from a birth cohort in Thailand, it will have broad applications for the U.S. population.  Insight Pest Control Wilmington says that because these pesticides are widely distributed in the food supply, all U.S. infants are potentially exposed.

“We’re primarily interested in the development of young children from the prenatal phase all the way through maybe age six or so as they develop their neurocognitive abilities,” says Ryan, professor of exposure science and environmental chemistry, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. “We’re interested in pesticides in particular because they’re a known neurotoxicant. They’re various classes of pesticides, many of which are associated with developmental delay and loss of IQ.”

A valid method for measuring pesticide compounds in breast milk and formula would have a major impact on the ability of researchers to evaluate pesticide exposures in early life, contributing to an improved understanding of their longer-term health effects.

“One of our major objectives is to get one method that can capture all those different types [of pesticides] so that one sample can be analyzed during one run in the laboratory. We think this will save time and money for future researchers,” says Riederer.

The stimulus-funded project, “Validation & Pilot Testing of Methods for Assessing Infants’ Dietary Pesticide Exposure,” is supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

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