Sept. 16 (UPI) — Women with higher levels of PFAS in their blood may be more likely to stop breastfeeding early, a new study published Thursday by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found.
“Our findings are important because almost every human on the planet is exposed to PFAS,” study co-author Clara Amalie Gade Timmermann said in a press release.
“These man-made chemicals accumulate in our bodies and have detrimental effects on reproductive health,” said Timmermann, assistant professor of the University of Southern Denmark in Copenhagen.
As so-called “forever chemicals,” PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are manmade chemicals used as oil and water repellents and coatings for common products such as cookware, carpets and textiles, as well as in cosmetics, according to the Environmental Working Group.
The chemicals do not break down when they are released into the environment, and they continue to accumulate, the group says.
PFAS chemicals can affect pregnancy outcomes, the timing of puberty and other aspects of reproductive health, research suggests.
For this study, Timmermann and her colleagues analyzed blood samples from nearly 1,300 pregnant women in Denmark for PFAS and prolactin concentrations.
The women in the study provided information about the duration of breastfeeding in weekly text messages or questionnaires at three and 18 months after delivery, the researchers said.
Women with higher levels of PFAS in their system were 20% more likely to stop breastfeeding early, likely due to disruptions in mammary gland development and production of breastmilk caused by exposure to the chemicals, the researchers said.
“Because breastfeeding is crucial to promote both child and maternal health, adverse PFAS effects on the ability to breastfeed may have long-term health consequences,” Timmermann said.
“Early unwanted weaning has been traditionally attributed to psychological factors, which are without a doubt important. Hopefully our research will help shift the focus and highlight that not all mothers can breastfeed,” she said.