Does Breastfeeding Contribute to Autism?

Suzanne Murray
breastfeeding autism

Photo by jewelrymaker995

According to lilsugar, a 2007 study about the link between breast milk and developmental disorder is gaining attention since the University of California at San Francisco republished the results on its web site.

In the study, rats were exposed to the same levels of environmental toxins found in breast milk and suffered significant deterioration of the brain. Michael Merzenich, Ph.D., the lead scientist on the study, suggested that women exposed to high levels of environmental toxins might reconsider breastfeeding because of the toxins' ability to exacerbate brain disorders.

He is quick to point out that the study was done on rats. According to the university web site, "Dr. Merzenich understands that he is treading on very thin ice. The value and benefits of breastfeeding are well-known. And for a scientist to inject a disruptive theory into a maternal bonding experience is, he admits, presumptuous. Yet he is alarmed. And he is not alone."

Dr. Merzenich is trying to get the Autism Foundation to pursue a similar study in humans. "The Centers for Disease Control have been worried about these chemicals and their potential effects in the development of babies for a long time, and they have been issuing warnings about PCBs and PBDEs," he says. "Their concern has been primarily about women exposed to these chemicals in areas where they are in relatively high concentrations. Our study adds to the worry and it really indicates that it's in the great public interest to determine quickly whether or not these chemical poisons which are very widespread in the American environment are adding to the risk of onset of these developmental disorders."

This study doesn't make me rethink breastfeeding. It does, however, make me even more vigilant about the things I put in and on my body, the products and furnishings I use in my home, and the toys I buy for my daughter. I wish the United States would get more with it (like say, the European Union) when it comes to outlawing toxic chemicals.

Are you worried about the environment and other chemicals affecting your breast milk? Do you take any precautions to try to avoid toxins on a daily basis? Does this study make you reconsider breastfeeding at all?

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