To collect information on the concentrations of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the rural areas in Flanders (Belgium), 84 breastfeeding mothers were recruited in rural communities in East and West Flanders and Flemish Brabant in 2009-2010. Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners, organochlorine pesticides, brominated flame retardants, perfluorinated compounds, polychlorinated dibenzodioxines and dibenzofurans, and dioxin-like PCBs were measured in individual milk samples and in a pooled milk sample, while some additional pollutants were only measured in the pooled sample. For most pollutants, the concentrations in this study were lower or comparable to the concentrations measured in the pooled Belgian sample of the WHO human milk study of 2006, except for the pesticides dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane DDT (+25% for ΣDDT and metabolites) and trans-nonachlor (+94%), and for the brominated flame retardant hexachlorocyclododecane HBCD (+153%). Perfluorinated compounds were for the first time determined in human milk samples from Belgium and the concentrations were comparable to those from other European countries. Also, interesting associations were found between the concentrations of POPs measured in human milk and personal characteristics as well as dietary habits of the study population. PFOS en PFOA concentrations were significantly higher in milk of primiparous participants compared to mothers who gave birth to their second child. Lower brominated PBDE congeners increased with increasing BMI of the mothers (p=0.01 for BDE 47, p=0.02 for BDE 99 and p=0.02 for BDE 100). Participants consuming milk or dairy products daily had significant higher concentrations of ΣDDTs (p=0.03) and oxychlordane (p=0.047) in their human milk samples.
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