Both infant nourishment contain certain concentrations of arsenic, but infant formula had higher levels. The highest levels were found in tap water. For most of the participants, infant formula and tap water contributed most to the exposure. These findings were published online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Early exposure to arsenic has been linked to growth defects, brain function impairment and premature death.
In the first U.S. study of urinary arsenic in babies, Dartmouth College researchers found that formula-fed infants had higher arsenic levels than breast-fed infants, and that breast milk itself contained very low arsenic concentrations.
The findings appear Feb. 23 online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. A PDF is available on request.
The researchers measured arsenic in home tap water, urine from 72 six-week-old infants and breast milk from nine women in New Hampshire. Urinary arsenic was 7.5 times lower for breast-fed than formula-fed infants. The highest tap water arsenic concentrations far exceeded the arsenic concentrations in powdered formulas, but for the majority of the study's participants, both the powder and water contributed to exposure.
“This study's results highlight that breastfeeding can reduce arsenic exposure even at the relatively low levels of arsenic typically experienced in the United States,” says lead author Professor Kathryn Cottingham. “This is an important public health benefit of …
If your baby takes formula, is there anything else you can or should be doing to minimize his or her exposure to arsenic? If you get your water from a public source, you can learn about local arsenic levels by checking with your water supplier.
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