Infancy is a very delicate phase in human development which is very sensitive to environmental pollutants. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health reported, infant growth is affected by being exposed to environmental pollutants.
Although the levels of two environmental pollutants which have been investigated have decreased over the past 20 years, they may still result in adverse effects on the development of children.
Researchers opened up an investigation of whether exposure to two persistent organic pollutants prior to and after birth was associated with rapid growth in infancy, which is a known risk factor for the development of obesity in later life. The two pollutants studied were polychlorinated biphenyl 153 (PCB153), a chemical which was used extensively in windows and electrical equipment in Norway prior to being banned in the 1990s, and p,p’-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (p,p’-DDE), which is a metabolite of the controversial pesticide 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis(4-chlorophenyl)ethane (p,p′-DDT), which is now being used only in malaria control
These pollutants have long half-lives and they therefore accumulate and become concentrated in the food chain. Humans are exposed to these pollutants via food, particularly breast milk and seafood. It was discovered by the researchers that maternal levels of DDE were significantly associated with rapid growth early in a babies life. It was also observed that levels of PCB153 in milk and the amount transferred via breastfeeding were associated with decreased infant growth.
This study has been published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Merete Eggesbø, principal investigator of this study, said that even although PCB and DDE levels have decreased significantly over the past 20 years this study shows that even the lower levels which European infants are exposed to today may adversely affect their development. Clearly there is a need to continue to decrease these pollutants and other pollutants in the environment.