Publicity has raised concern about the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in breast milk. There are no known effects in children at levels found in people in the United States.
In Kyushu, Japan, pregnant women who ingested cooking oil that was heavily contaminated with PCBs and other chemicals had small-for-gestational-age infants who had transient darkening of the skin.
PCBs are stored in body fat and are not readily excreted, except in the fat of breast milk. In the past, PCBs have entered the body through a variety of foods. More recently, contaminated game fish and occupational exposures have been the main sources. The only women in the United States who may have been heavily exposed are those who worked with PCBs or who have eaten large amounts of sports fish from PCB-contaminated waters such as the Saint Lawrence Seaway.
Unless women have a history of exposure to PCBs, they should be encouraged to breast-feed their infants as usual. When a well-documented history of exposure to PCBs is obtained and the mother wants to breast-feed her infant, the mother's PCB level could be measured in about three weeks' time. The advice of state health department officials should be sought in the rare instances when a high PCB level is found.
- Copyright © 1978 by the American Academy of Pediatrics