06 May 2010

Groups Push for Stronger Pollution Prevention Laws to Safeguard Breastmilk - the Best Food for Babies


Child, maternal and environmental health advocates have urged the incoming administration to enact and enforce the strongest pollution prevention laws to protect breastmilk – the most complete and “Zero Waste” food for babies - from chemical contaminants.

The shared call by the Arugaan/Save Babies Coalition, the EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives coincides with the release of the report “Mother Earth, Mother’s Milk, Mothers’ Stories: Breastfeeding in a Chemically Contaminated World” at the ongoing 18th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development in New York City, which, among others, will address issues concerning toxic chemicals.

The report containing the results of a recent biomonitoring project that tested breastmilk of five first time mothers from Alaska, Czech Republic, Kenya, Mexico and the Philippines will be given to delegates to remind them of the levels of personal pollution around the globe and the level of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in breastmilk.

Biomonitoring is a scientific tool that identifies and measures amounts of chemical substances or their breakdown products in human tissues or fluids. Test results can shed light on the failures of existing chemical regulations as well as pinpoint necessary improvements in public health policy regulation.

Participant mom from the Philippines Mary Ann Lantin of Batangas provided breastmilk samples to promote societal support for breastfeeding and to raise awareness about toxic chemical body burdens and the need for stronger and more comprehensive regulation to stop personal pollution.

The biospecimens of breastmilk were tested for a short list of toxic chemicals called POPs, including some organochlorine pesticides and flame retardants.

POPs endure in the environment and in humans for long periods of time. POPs have been linked to serious ailments such as asthma, learning and developmental disabilities, birth defects, diabetes, greater susceptibility to some infectious diseases, infertility, and cancers.

“The government has a big responsibility to ensure that breastfeeding flourishes and that breastmilk is protected from contamination. The government must stop the production and use of harmful chemicals,” Lantin said as quoted in the report.

“Breastmilk, even when it contains industrial chemicals, remains the best food for babies as affirmed by many scientific studies. Some studies indicate that breastmilk may reverse damage that may have occurred during critical periods of development in utero from toxic chemical exposures. Breastfeeding is even more important for the health of the baby, given the chemically contaminated world we all inhabit, and into which the baby is born” said Sharyle Patton of Commonweal, the California-based group that coordinated the biomonitoring project.

“We congratulate Mary Grace Lantin and all the participating mothers for breastfeeding their kids and for speaking out in favor of chemical reforms to protect the integrity of breastmilk, the best food for babies,” said Ines Fernandez of Arugaan/Save Babies Coalition, a local affiliate of the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action.

“We urge the incoming administration to pay close attention to the right of every Filipino baby to be breastfed and further ask them, particularly the new President, to ensure a safe and non-toxic environment for all by taking action against toxic chemicals that pose hazards to human health and the environment,” said Manny Calonzo of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, which coordinated the Philippine participation in the biomonitoring project.

The biomonitoring results show that all the five participating mothers had quantifiable concentrations of six major organochlorine pesticides or their by-products.

All of them had quantifiable levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers(PBDEs), which are flame retardants commonly used in airplanes, building materials, electronics, furnishings, motor vehicles, plastics, polyurethane foams and textiles.

Prepared by Commonweal, the Moms and POPs Projects and the International POPs Elimination Network, “Mother Earth, Mother’s Milk and Mothers’ Stories” underscores the need to promote breastfeeding while halting the pollution that is poisoning our bodies and our communities.
EcoWaste Coalition Unit 329, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St. Quezon City, Philippines +63 2 441-1846 ecowastecoalition@yahoo.com

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