Is Breastmilk Causing Autism?

breastfeeding1I have been waiting for this kind of news to come out: a study at the University of California, San Francisco has purported a possible link between the PCBs and PBDEs showing up in breastmilk and the development of autism.

Scary? Here’s where it gets even scarier: the scientists and some folks reporting on the study are being overly cautious in putting this out lest women opt for formula over breastfeeding.

If that’s not proof that the “breast is best” folks have lost all common sense, I don’t know what is. Take a report over at Eco Child’s Play this week: which prefaces half its paragraphs with reminders that this study was done on rats rather than humans.

Absolutely true. Not that mention that, as with many studies, correlation does not equal causation.

But what’s being glossed over here is the fact that the scientists were putting the amount of PCBs and PBDEs estimated to appear in human breastmilk into these rats. Which means these dangerous chemicals ARE IN human breastmilk. Even if the much larger babies are not nearly as susceptible to these toxins as a much smaller rat, the fact remains that these agents are appearing in the breastmilk.

And lest you forget, PCBs were banned in the seventies for posing serious health risks to humans . . . and are still present in the environment (further proof that they’re dangerous, perhaps?). The PBDEs are still being studied, but have likewise been linked to dangers.

But they’re there . . . in breastmilk . . . and the scientists who have linked their danger to autism don’t want you to be too alarmed. They’d prefer you wait until they test a few more rats and then get around to humans.

Yes, breastfeeding is wonderful, and I’m hesitant to say that every medical study should force change forthwith. But is every benefit of breastfeeding so vast that we must resort to skullduggery to keep women doing it?

Image: EcoStreet

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