group of infants and mothers tested at The University of Texas at Arlington
have given researchers another reason to extol the unique properties of breast
Purnendu "Sandy" Dasgupta
team led by Purnendu “Sandy” Dasgupta, Jenkins Garrett Professor of Chemistry
and Biochemistry at UT Arlington, has found evidence that breast-fed babies can
metabolize the environmental contaminant perchlorate, decreasing their risks of
detrimental developmental effects from exposure.
research suggests a link between this characteristic and bifidobacteria,
bacteria that is plentiful in the digestive systems of breast-fed babies.
team’s work with 18 pairs of infants and mothers is detailed in the article
“Breast-fed Infants Metabolize Perchlorate,” which was recently accepted for publication by
the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology and
is available online.
Centers for Disease Control researchers and our lab have previously observed
that there is a higher concentration of perchlorate in breast milk versus
formula. Although the merits of breastfeeding far outweigh any risk posed by
this, it has caused some mothers concern.” Dasgupta said. “Our results suggest
that nature has already devised a way to at least partly take care of it.”
team did not find similar evidence of perchlorate metabolism in a small number
of samples from formula-fed infants. “Formula-fed babies get much less
perchlorate anyway, so the risk is not as great as the breast-fed babies,”
Cason, UT Arlington interim vice president for research, said Dasgupta’s
findings have added valuable information to what is known about the benefits of
breastfeeding and the impact of environmental contaminants.
worldwide chemistry community has honored Dr. Dasgupta time and again for his
willingness to address a diverse group of problems with novel solutions,"
occurs naturally in the environment and in rocket fuel, fireworks, some
fertilizers and road flares. Evidence suggests it can block the uptake of
iodine to the thyroid and disrupt the production of hormones necessary for
normal neurological development. These effects would be particularly harmful to
infants and young children.
of high levels of exposure have not been widespread, but concerns remain and
government studies show between 5 million to 17 million people may be drinking
water containing perchlorate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
announced in February 2011 that it would review emerging science on perchlorate
and develop a regulation “to protect Americans from any potential health
2005, Dasgupta gained national attention for his discovery of levels of
perchlorate concentration as high as 92 and an average of 10.5 micrograms per
liter in breast milk samples from across the U.S. By comparison, California has
a limit of 6 micrograms per liter for perchlorate in drinking water.
the current study, Dasgupta and his team studied 43 breast milk samples and 39
urine samples from 13 pairs of breast-fed infants and mothers, as well as 21
urine samples and 21 formula samples from five pairs of formula-fed infants and
mothers. They measured perchlorate and iodine concentrations in the breast milk
and corresponding infant urine samples.
iodine nor perchlorate has been known to significantly accumulate or metabolize
in the body. So, concentrations of iodine and perchlorate in the breast milk
compared to the amount of each in the baby’s urine should result in similar
researchers found the ratios were similar for formula-fed babies. But, for
breast-fed babies, they found that the perchlorate concentration in the urine
was 52 percent less than what is expected if there was no loss.
team’s discoveries indicate some metabolism of the perchlorate is taking place
in the breast-fed infants, said C. Phillip Shelor, a graduate assistant in
Dasgupta’s lab and the lead author of the paper. To confirm that bifidobacteria
is likely responsible, the team added perchlorate to store-bought milk with
cultured bifidobacteria in it – the perchlorate was significantly destroyed
work was funded by a grant from The Gerber Foundation, a charity benefiting
children that was established by the founder of the baby foods brand and is now
an independent entity. Other co-authors include: Andrea B. Kirk, Martina Kroll
and Catrina A. Campbell, all associated with Dasgupta’s lab at UT Arlingto,n and
Pankaj Choudhary, an associate professor of biostatistics at UT Dallas.
said it is not his intent to downplay the risks of perchlorate exposure or the
need for education about getting proper iodine levels into breastfeeding
mothers’ diets. He hopes the current work will add to the public discussion and
inspire additional analysis.
is definitely something worth looking at further,” he said.
is among the dedicated researchers at The University of Texas at Arlington, a
comprehensive research institution of nearly 33,500 students in the heart of
North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu to