The researchers said that not breastfeeding an infant typically poses more of a threat than does exposure to any of environmental pollutants measured in human milk.
Breastfeeding has shown to significantly reduce the risk of infection, allergy, asthma, arthritis, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and various cancers in both childhood and adulthood.
The presence of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), pesticides, heavy metals, and other contaminants in human milk are concerned whether the offspring's exposure to these pollutants might reduce or even override the health benefits.
However, author M. Nathaniel Mead reveals that even the highly polluted areas showed a better outcome for breastfed infants.
Because of human milk's nutritional, immunologic, anticancer, and detoxifying effects, scientists encourage women to continue the practice of breastfeeding even in the context of widespread pollution.
"The collaborative message from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Surgeon General, and the American Academy of Pediatrics is clear: breastfeeding remains the recommended best practice for infants, even in the presence of today's potential levels of environmental contaminants," said EHP editor-in-chief Hugh A. Tilson, PhD.
The study is reported in the 11th Annual Children's Health Issue of Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP).