Objective: Environmental chemicals are readily measured in human milk. Although it is imperative to conduct studies on frequency of detection and effects of exposures to environmental chemicals in human milk, the potential impact of reporting individual test results to lactating women is poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to determine if mothers want to know if chemicals are in their breastmilk and if knowing the results would alter their breastfeeding practices.
Methods: We surveyed 381 mothers who were participating in a longitudinal birth cohort about whether they wanted to receive individual test results for environmental chemicals in their milk and whether they would alter their breastfeeding patterns if they were told that their milk contained "low" or "high" levels of phthalates.
Results: Among the women who breastfed, 68% said that they wanted to know if there were chemicals in their breastmilk. Of breastfeeding women, 78% and 93% of mothers reported that they would either discontinue breastfeeding sooner than intended or pump and discard their milk if they were told they had "low" or "high" levels of phthalates in their milk, respectively. African American women were significantly more likely than Caucasian women to report that they would immediately wean if told of phthalates in their milk.
Conclusions: Concern about environmental chemicals in breastmilk may lead to early termination of breastfeeding. Chemical manufacturers and researchers should recognize the potential implications of isolating and reporting environmental chemicals in breastmilk.