Mercury in human colostrum and early breast milk. Its dependence on dental amalgam and other factors

J Trace Elem Med Biol. 1998 Mar;12(1):23-7. doi: 10.1016/s0946-672x(98)80017-5.


The mercury concentration in 70 breast milk samples (Hg-M) from 46 mothers, collected within the first 7 days after delivery, was determined by cold vapour atomic absorption spectrometry. For comparison, 9 formula milk samples (reconstituted with Hg-free water) were investigated. The Hg-M in the human milk samples ranged from < 0.2 to 6.86 micrograms/L (median 0.37), in the formula milk samples from 0.4 to 2.5 micrograms/L (median 0.76). The Hg-M in the breast milk samples correlates positively with the number of maternal teeth with dental amalgam. The mean Hg-M of amalgam-free mothers was < 0.2 microgram/L, while milk from mothers with 1-4 amalgam fillings contained 0.57 microgram/L, with 5-7 fillings 0.50 microgram/L and with more than 7 fillings 2.11 micrograms/L. Hg-M correlated negatively to the day after delivery. Frequency of fish consumption tends to influence Hg-M positively, while the age of the mother shows no significant correlation. In the first 2 to 3 days after delivery some colostrum samples with Hg-M higher than in formula milk were found. Later on, the Hg-concentration in the breast milk was equal or even lower to that in formula milk. The higher Hg burden of infants' tissues from mothers with dental amalgam, as reported previously, must be explained (1) by a prenatal transfer of Hg from the mother's fillings through the placenta to the fetus, followed by a redistribution of this Hg in the body of the newborn, and (2) an additional burden via breast milk. Nevertheless, the comparison of Hg-M in breast and formula milk, the relatively moderate Hg burden in both kinds of milk, and the multiple manifest advantages of breast feeding speak against any limitation of nursing, even for mothers with a large number of dental amalgam fillings.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Colostrum / chemistry*
  • Colostrum / metabolism
  • Dental Amalgam* / adverse effects
  • Dental Amalgam* / pharmacokinetics
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Fishes*
  • Food Contamination*
  • Humans
  • Infant Food / analysis
  • Lactation / physiology
  • Mercury / analysis*
  • Mercury / pharmacokinetics
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Milk, Human / metabolism
  • Spectrophotometry, Atomic


  • Dental Amalgam
  • Mercury