Persistent organochlorine compounds in human breast milk from mothers living in Penang and Kedah, Malaysia

Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2005 Oct;49(3):429-37. doi: 10.1007/s00244-004-0208-8. Epub 2005 Aug 24.


This study determined the concentrations of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins/dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine (OC) pesticides, and tris(4-chlorophenyl) methane (TCPMe) in human breast milk samples collected in 2003 from primipara mothers living in Penang, Malaysia. OCs were detected in all the samples analyzed with DDTs, hexachlorocyclohexane isomers (HCHs), and PCBs as the major contaminants followed by chlordane compounds (CHLs), hexachlorobenzene (HCB), and TCPMe. The residue levels of DDTs, HCHs, and CHLs were comparable to or higher than those in general populations of other countries, whereas PCBs and HCB were relatively low. In addition, dioxins and related compounds were also detected with a range of dioxin equivalent concentrations from 3.4 to 24 pg-TEQs/g lipid wt. Levels of toxic equivalents (TEQs) were slightly higher than those in other developing countries but still much lower than those of industrialized nations. One donor mother contained a high TEQs level, equal to the mean value in human breast milk from Japan, implying that some of the residents in Malaysia may be exposed to specific pollution sources of dioxins and related compounds. No association was observed between OCs concentrations and maternal characteristics, which might be related to a limited number of samples, narrow range of age of the donor mothers, and/or other external factors. The recently identified endocrine disrupter, TCPMe, was also detected in all human breast milk samples of this study. A significant positive correlation was observed between TCPMe and DDTs, suggesting that technical DDT might be a source of TCPMe in Malaysia. The present study provides a useful baseline for future studies on the accumulations of OCs in the general population of Malaysia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis*
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism
  • Environmental Pollutants / standards
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / analysis*
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / metabolism
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / standards
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Insecticides / analysis
  • Insecticides / metabolism
  • Insecticides / standards
  • Malaysia
  • Maternal Exposure*
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Mothers
  • Pesticide Residues / analysis
  • Pesticide Residues / metabolism
  • Pesticide Residues / standards
  • Risk Assessment


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Insecticides
  • Pesticide Residues