New Moms

Study Shows Pesticide Exposure Damages Developing Breast Tissue, Prevents Breastfeeding

| by Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog

I've mentioned this study before (in a podcast on hormonal causes of low milk supply), but it's come up again in the news, and I'm so fascinated by it that I thought I'd post about it again.  

A researcher at the University of Florida, Elizabeth Guillette, has been studying Yaqui communities in Mexico for years.  In the 1950's, the Yaqui split over whether to adopt 'modern' agricultural methods which involved heavy use of pesticides, or to maintain traditional farming methods.  This conflict literally divided the community in two, and the half of the group which did not want to adopt modern farming practices moved away, into the foothills.  This provided a fascinating research opportunity to study the effects of pesticide use, alongside a control group (the group that moved away and maintained traditional farming methods).

What does this have to do with breastfeeding?  Indian Country Today reports:

Long term research led by Elizabeth Guillette, Ph.D., of the University of Florida found compelling proof that pesticides acted as endocrine disruptors and produced negative health impacts over the years to the exposed Yaqui indigenous communities.

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Endocrine disruptors or EDCs, endocrine disrupting chemicals, include DDT and other pesticides.

Guillette's latest research finds that some of the pre-adolescent daughters of mothers exposed to pesticide spraying will never be able to breast-feed their babies.  With others there is uncertainty.  Although there is breast growth, some daughters lacked development of the mammary gland needed to produce milk, or developed a minimal amount.

As the girls in the exposed group matured, their breast size became much larger than normal, yet they had less mammary tissue and often none at all, while the unexposed girls were normal.

"A large study using my techniques was done in India showing the exact same results," Guillette said.  She published her research findings in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

You can read part of the published article here or the full text here

Photo by BlatantNews.com via Flickr