Between 30 and 50 first-time mothers giving birth at Uppsala University Hospital and who are resident in Uppsala County are recruited to the study each year. The participating women collect breast milk during the third week after childbirth and provide blood, hair and urine samples. The mothers also respond to questionnaires on subjects such as lifestyle and dietary habits.
Research reports from other countries have raised suspicions that high levels of certain persistent organic pollutants may affect the health of children, with certain pollutants increasing the risk of developing allergies while others appear to reduce the risk. To investigate this among other things, a follow-up study is being conducted of children to the mothers who have participated in POPUP, at approximately 4, 8 and 12 years of age. The follow-up study includes a questionnaire on the children’s health. Where possible we also take blood and urine samples from both mother and child.
The study was approved by the Regional Ethical Review Board in Uppsala.
Milk and blood samples are primarily analysed for persistent organic pollutants, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine insecticides (DDT and others), dioxins and brominated flame retardants (BFRs). These analyses are performed by the Swedish Food Agency.
Among other things, the results are used to monitor changes in levels of persistent organic pollutants over time. The results are also very important in following up the Swedish Food Agency’s advice on the consumption of fish contaminated with PCSs and dioxins. So far, the results have shown a decrease in levels of many persistent organic pollutants in breast milk.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are among the environmental pollutants analysed in blood from first-time mothers and their children at 4, 8 and 12 years of age. Mercury has been analysed in hair samples, while urine samples have been found to contain phenolic compounds, including bisphenols and phthalate metabolites used as plastic softeners.
The Swedish Riksdag has adopted 16 environmental quality objectives. The work conducted by the Swedish Food Agency on persistent organic pollutants in breast milk and blood is the basis for one of the indicators for the environmental quality objective a non-toxic environment.
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Head of Risk and Benefit Assement Department