Baby formula poses higher arsenic risk to newborns than breast milk, study shows

Baby formula poses higher arsenic risk to newborns than breast milk, Dartmouth study shows
In the first US study of urinary arsenic in babies, Dartmouth College researchers found that formula-fed infants had higher arsenic levels than breast-fed infants, and that breast milk itself contained very low arsenic concentrations. Credit: Dartmouth College

In the first U.S. study of urinary arsenic in babies, Dartmouth College researchers found that formula-fed infants had higher arsenic levels than breast-fed infants, and that breast milk itself contained very low arsenic concentrations.

The findings appear Feb. 23 online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The researchers measured arsenic in home tap water, urine from 72 six-week-old infants and from nine women in New Hampshire. Urinary arsenic was 7.5 times lower for breast-fed than formula-fed infants. The highest tap water arsenic concentrations far exceeded the arsenic concentrations in powdered formulas, but for the majority of the study's participants, both the powder and water contributed to exposure.

"This study's results highlight that breastfeeding can reduce arsenic exposure even at the relatively low levels of arsenic typically experienced in the United States," says lead author Professor Kathryn Cottingham. "This is an important public health benefit of breastfeeding."

Arsenic occurs naturally in bedrock and is a common global contaminant of well water. It causes cancers and other diseases, and early-life exposure has been associated with increased fetal mortality, decreased birth weight and diminished cognitive function. The Environmental Protection Agency has set a maximum contaminant level for public drinking water, but private well water is not subject to regulation and is the primary water source in many rural parts of the United States.

"We advise families with private wells to have their tested for arsenic," says senior author Professor Margaret Karagas, principal investigator at Dartmouth's Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center. Added study co-lead author Courtney Carignan: "We predict that population-wide will increase during the second part of the first year of life as the prevalence of formula-feeding increases."


Explore further

Infant toenails reveal in utero exposure to low-level arsenic, study finds

Provided by Dartmouth College
Citation: Baby formula poses higher arsenic risk to newborns than breast milk, study shows (2015, February 23) retrieved 24 May 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-02-baby-formula-poses-higher-arsenic.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
86 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more