Hey mamas…. what are you putting in your breastmilk?

I love this book.  I have the older edition, so I’ll update the quotes if I find that anything has changed in the newer one.

In the second part of the book, John Robbins talks about the different chemicals and pesticides that are used on and fed to the livestock in our country.  These pesticides can kill and injure when ingested with the lowest measurable doses (1/2 part per trillion) and yet we dunk, spray, and feed our livestock all sorts of horrible compounds.  They have not been in use long enough for us to learn what kind of problems they will eventually cause in our population, which is even more of a reason to be alarmed.

It is so easy to take for granted what we are giving our babies through our bodies.  Remember that breastmilk changes depending on what you eat, and our kids’ little bodies need the best possible food.   John Robbins discussion on this topic really hit home for me.

You might think that any way toxic chemicals could possibly be eliminated from the human body would be a good thing.  But, disturbingly, the most common way these stored-up poisons are released is in the breast milk of nursing mothers.

Note: This is NOT an anti-breastfeeding article.  Keep reading!

A nursing woman’s body draws on its body fat reservoirs to make milk.  Stored in her body fat reservoirs are virtually all the toxic chemicals she has ever ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through her skin.

So high is most mother’s milk in DDT, PCB’s, dieldrin, heptachlor, dioxin, and so on that it would be subject to confiscation and destruction by the FDA were it to be sold across state lines.

The EPA found significant concentrations of DDT and PCB’s in over 99% of mother’s milk from every part of the country.  Other studies have confirmed these levels of saturation…  The President’s Council on Environmental Quality found DDT in 100% of the breast milk it sampled.

The EPA has concluded that the average American breast fed infant ingests nine times the permissible level of dieldrin, one of the most potent of all cancer-causing agents known to modern science.  As if that weren’t enough, the EPA concludes that the average American breast fed infant also consumes ten times the FDA’s maximum allowable daily intake level of PCB’s.

Obviously that is horrifying.  We don’t want to poison our children.

Some women are so alarmed by these terrifying facts that they decide not to breast feed their young.  But this is usually not the best decision for a number of important reasons:

  1. Human breast milk is nutritionally vastly superior for a human infant to any… formula.
  2. The formulas are also likely to be contaminated with toxic chemicals.
  3. Human breast milk contains antibodies which are crucial for the newborn.
  4. Breast-feeding provides the bonding and emotional nurturance which are tremendously import to the well-being of both mother and baby.

OK, so then what do we do?  How can we minimize our children’s exposure to such dangerous chemicals?

The EPT analyzed the breast milk of vegetarian women, and discovered the levels of pesticides in their milk to be far less than average.  A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found

The highest levels of contamination in the breast milk of the vegetarians was lower than the lowest level of contamination… (in) non-vegetarian women…  The mean vegetarian levels were only one or two percent as high as the average levels in the United States.

That is huge!  1 or 2%!  I think that anything that we can do to improve the quality of our breastmilk (and our personal health) is fantastic, and these statistics are another great reason to consider a vegetarian or vegan diet.  The reason that cows, chickens, and pigs have especially high amounts of these chemicals is not just because they are sprayed and fed them, but also because they eat food from fields that have been sprayed with tons of chemicals and then they store those toxins in their fat.  When we eat their fat, we get the cumulative amount of toxins from the tons of food that they have eaten.

I was googling around, and saw that goveg has an article on the same topic, so feel free to check it out.  They use the same quotes:


Eat well, mamas!

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  1. Hello Amanda,

    I was wondering if these studies included people who eat an organic diet or was that not mentioned?



  2. From what I understand, this was non-organic and it was also ovo-lacto veg, so I’m sure that organic vegan would be even better.

  3. Thank you for the info.


  4. That article you cite from the New England Journal of Medicine: could you please tell me the title? I’m writing a big report for school on the effects of synthetic chemicals on women’s and fetal health, and it’s scaring the daylights out of me! :-) I keep reading about bioaccumulation, so it made me think that vegetarians and esp. vegans might have safer breast milk, and your blog came up in google. thanks so much!

  5. Here’s a link to the study – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7464895

    Check out these links for more info – http://www.mindfully.org/Health/Breast-Feeding.htm

    Here’s some more info on the study…
    New England Journal of Medicine, March 26, 1981, p. 792
    Hergenrather J, et al. Pollutants in breast milk of vegetarians. Lancet, 1981, pp.304-792.


  1. [...] at Hippie Mommy quotes a study that show the levels of pesticides in vegetarian mothers’ breast milk is far [...]

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