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Keywords:

  • breast milk;
  • breastfeeding;
  • children's health;
  • chemical contaminants;
  • pollutants;
  • pesticides;
  • organohalogens;
  • dioxins

Toxic environmental contaminants can be transferred from mother to infant via breastfeeding. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are a family of lipophilic stable chemicals that bioaccumulate in adipose tissue and create a lasting toxic body burden. Breastfeeding provides a significant source of exposure to POPs early in human life, the effects of which are unknown, and is the subject of a growing body of research. Despite the possibility of harm from environmental contaminants in breast milk, breastfeeding is still recommended as the best infant feeding method. This article reviews what is known about POPs in breast milk and their effect on infant development to inform clinicians about the issue, provide recommendations for practice, and promote environmental and public health policies that reduce human exposure to harmful pollutants.