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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Are temporal trends of some persistent organochlorine and organobromine compounds in Swedish breast milk slowing down?

Gyllenhammar, Irina; Aune, Marie; Friden, Ulrika; Cantillana, Tatiana; Bignert, Anders; Lignell, Sanna; Glynn, Anders


We investigated body burdens of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in Swedish first-time mothers by measurements in breast milk, and followed up the temporal trends between 1996 and 2017. POPs were analysed in individual samples (n = 539) from participants from Uppsala county, Sweden. This made it possible to adjust temporal trends for age of the mother, pre-pregnancy BMI, weight gain during pregnancy, weight loss after delivery, and education, the main determinants for POP body burdens, apart from sampling year. We also compared observed body burdens with the body burdens determined to be safe from a health perspective in the risk assessment of dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs), published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Declining temporal trends in breast milk of on average -4 to 14% per year were observed 1996-2017 for PCBs, PCDD/Fs, chlorinated pesticides, and brominated flame retardants, except for the polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) BDE-153 and BDE-209. The toxic equivalents (TEQs) for PCDD declined faster than PCDF TEQs, -6.6% compared to -3.5% per year. For CB-169, CB-180, PCDDs, PCDFs, Total TEQ, and hexachlorobenzene (HCB), a change point year (CP) was observed around 2008-2009 and after that, the decline in levels has slowed down. If breast milk levels follows the exponential declining trend of total TEQ estimated for the entire period (-5.7% per year), 97.5% of first time mothers from the Uppsala area will have body burdens below the estimated safe level in year 2022. If instead it follows the estimated % decline after the CP in 2008 (-1.6% per year), it will take until 2045 before 97.5% is below the estimated safe level. It is important to proceed with the monitoring of POPs in breast milk from Swedish mothers in order to further observe if the levels are stabilizing or continue to decline.


Persistent organic pollutants; POPs; Human milk; Dioxins; Brominated compounds

Published in

Environmental Research
2021, Volume: 197, article number: 111117

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      Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology

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