Individual breast milk consumption and exposure to PCBs and PCDD/Fs in Hungarian infants: A time-course analysis of the first three months of lactation

Éva Vigh, Andrea Colombo, Emilio Benfenati, Helen Håkansson, Marika Berglund, József Bódis, János Garai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs) are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals. These compounds are transferred to breast milk, therefore breastfed infants are at risk of being exposed to considerable amounts of PCBs and PCDD/Fs during this sensitive age.In the present study individual breast milk samples were collected at three time points (days 5, 12 and 84 postpartum) from 22 mothers who delivered their infants during 2007 in Baranya County, Hungary. Breast milk samples were analyzed for 17 PCDD/Fs, 12 dioxin-like (DL) PCBs and 7 non-dioxin-like (NDL) PCBs using high-resolution gas chromatography/high-resolution mass spectrometry. Each infant's daily breast milk consumptions have been measured biweekly over three months.The concentration of several PCB and PCDD congeners in breast milk decreased significantly during lactation, with a main decline between days 5 and 12. The total toxic equivalent (TEQ) concentrations, derived from PCDD/Fs and DL-PCBs, were 3.17 ± 1.72, 2.70 ± 1.57 and 2.41 ± 1.47. pg TEQ/g fat at the three time points, respectively. The corresponding NDL-PCB concentrations were 33.5 ± 29.2, 27.4 ± 20.6 and 26.9 ± 24.8. ng/g fat, respectively. The results highlight the importance of timing of breast milk sampling for consistent exposure assessment estimation. Levels of pollutants in Hungarian breast milk samples were at the lower concentration range when data from Europe are considered. This is the first study in Hungary where each infant's daily intakes of PCBs and PCDD/Fs via breast milk have been measured. The daily intakes of PCDD/Fs and DL-PCBs via breastfeeding per kg body weight were 11.79 ± 6.42, 16.54 ± 13.02 and 11.59 ± 7.70. pg TEQ/kg bw on days 5, 12 and 84, respectively. The exposure was the highest on day 12 but at all three time points each infants' daily exposure to PCDD/Fs and DL-PCBs via breastfeeding exceeded the tolerable daily intake (TDI) of 2. pg TEQ/kg bw per day. These levels are still lower than corresponding levels recently measured in many European countries. Whether the milk-derived POP exposure levels of infants reported here constitute any health risk that may manifest later in life awaits further scrutiny.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)336-344
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2013


  • Breast milk
  • Daily intake
  • Hungary
  • Lactation
  • PCBs
  • PCDD/Fs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering


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