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Environmental Toxin Collects in Breast Milk
Date:12/7/2007

Perchlorate can then be passed on to nursing infants, rat study shows

FRIDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists have discovered the mechanism by which a chemical known as perchlorate can collect in breast milk and cause cognitive and motor deficits in newborns.

Used since the 1940s to manufacture explosives and rocket fuel, the contaminant is still widely present in the water and food supply, experts say.

And high concentrations of perchlorate in breast milk can be passed to a fetus during pregnancy and affect an infant's ability to manufacture essential thyroid hormone, the new study suggests. Perchlorate can lessen the amount of iodide available to a mother to pass on to her infant, and a baby needs iodide to produce thyroid hormones.

"The deficit of thyroid hormone is particularly delicate if it's at the beginning of life because the central nervous system has not completely matured," said study author Dr. Nancy Carrasco, a professor of molecular pharmacology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York City.

Thyroid hormones are "absolutely critical" for the development and maturation of the central nervous system, skeletal muscles and lungs, she explained.

In laboratory and rat research, Carrasco's team found that perchlorate limited the amount of iodide transported to a mother's mammary glands. The only source of iodide a baby typically has is mother's milk, she explained.

Her team discovered that perchlorate accumulates in mother's milk, but before this study, "we didn't know it would be passed on as actively to the baby," she said.

Carrasco and her colleagues at Einstein and at Johns Hopkins University reached this conclusion after experimental studies on how sodium iodide carries perchlorate to, and concentrates it in, mammary glands.

The next steps in this research will include animal studies looking at the effects of perchlorate exposure durin
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