Association between persistent organic pollutants in human milk and the infant growth and development throughout the first year postpartum in a cohort from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2023 Nov;30(54):115050-115063. doi: 10.1007/s11356-023-30316-y. Epub 2023 Oct 25.


Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are compounds that are recalcitrant and ubiquitous that bioaccumulate in human milk (HM) and can impact infant growth and development. We explore the association between POP concentration in HM at 2-50 days postpartum and infant growth and development trajectory throughout the first year of life. A cohort of 68 healthy adult Brazilian women and their infants were followed from 28 to 35 gestational weeks to 12 months postpartum. HM samples were collected between 2 and 50 days postpartum, and POP concentrations were analyzed using gas chromatography with mass spectrometry. Concentrations of POPs >limit of quantification (LOQ) were defined as presence, and concentrations ≤LOQ as an absence. Growth z-scores were analyzed according to WHO growth charts and infant development scores according to Age & Stages Questionnaires at 1 (n = 66), 6 (n = 50), and 12 months (n = 45). Linear mixed effects (LME) models were used to investigate the association of POPs in HM with infant growth and development. Benjamini-Hochberg (BH) correction for multiple testing was performed to reduce the false discovery ratio. P < 0.1 was considered for models with the interaction between POPs and time/sex. After BH correction, adjusted LME models with time interaction showed (1) a positive association between the presence of β hexachlorocyclohexane and an increase in head circumference-for-age z-score (β = 0.003, P = 0.095); (2) negative associations between total POPs (β = -0.000002, P = 0.10), total organochlorine pesticides (β = -0.000002, P = 0.10), and dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene concentrations in HM (β = -0.000002, P = 0.10) and fine motor scores. No statistical difference between the sexes was observed. Postnatal exposure to organochlorine pesticides in HM shows a positive association with the trajectory of head circumference-for-age z-score and a negative association with the trajectories of fine motor skills scores. Future studies on POP variation in HM at different postpartum times and their effect on infant growth and development should be encouraged.

Keywords: Breast milk; Child growth; Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene; Early childhood development; Motor skills; Organochlorine pesticides; Postpartum period; β-Hexachlorocyclohexane.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brazil
  • Child
  • Child Development
  • Environmental Pollutants* / analysis
  • Female
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated* / analysis
  • Infant
  • Milk, Human / chemistry
  • Persistent Organic Pollutants
  • Pesticides* / analysis
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls* / analysis
  • Postpartum Period


  • Persistent Organic Pollutants
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Pesticides
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls