How toxic is your breast milk?
A nice treatment of this topic in today’s New York Times Magazine, from Florence Williams.
When we nurse our babies, we feed them not only the fats, sugars and proteins that fire their immune systems, metabolisms and cerebral synapses. We also feed them, albeit in minuscule amounts, paint thinners, dry-cleaning fluids, wood preservatives, toilet deodorizers, cosmetic additives, gasoline byproducts, rocket fuel, termite poisons, fungicides and flame retardants.
If, as Cicero said, your face tells the story of your mind, your breast milk tells the decades-old story of your diet, your neighborhood and, increasingly, your household decor. Your old shag-carpet padding? It’s there. That cool blue paint in your pantry? There. The chemical cloud your landlord used to kill cockroaches? There. Ditto, the mercury in last week’s sushi, the benzene from your gas station, the preservative parabens from your face cream, the chromium from your neighborhood smokestack.
Williams very effectively uses the personal angle of breastfeeding her daughter to approach the larger topic of toxic substances in our environment, brominated flame retardants (PBDEs) in particular. Yes, it’s a highly approachable article on flame retardants — imagine that.