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Other publication2009Peer reviewedOpen access

Malaria Control Insecticide Residues in Breast Milk: The Need to Consider Infant Health Risks

Bouwman, Hindrik; Kylin, Henrik


BACKGROUND: In many parts of the world, deliberate indoor residual spraying (IRS) of dwellings with insecticides to control malaria transmission remains the only viable option, thereby unintentionally but inevitably also causing exposure to inhabitants. Because mothers are exposed to insecticides via various routes, accumulated residues are transferred to infants via breast milk, in some cases exceeding recommended intake levels. Except for dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), safety of residues of other insecticides in breast milk has not been considered during World Health Organization Pesticide Evaluation Scheme (WHOPES) evaluations. However, very little is known of the health risks posed by these chemicals to infants who, in developing countries, breast-feed for up to 2 years.OBJECTIVE: We evaluated the need for WHOPES to include breast milk as a potentially significant route of exposure and risk to infants when evaluating the risks during evaluation of IRS insecticides.DISCUSSION: We present evidence showing that neurologic and endocrine effects are associated with pyrethroids and DDT at levels equal or below known levels in breast milk.CONCLUSIONS: Because millions of people in malaria control areas experience conditions of multiple sources and routes of exposure to any number of insecticides, even though lives are saved through malaria prevention, identification of potential infant health risks associated with insecticide residues in breast milk must be incorporated in WHOPES evaluations and in the development of appropriate risk assessment tools.


DDT; IRS; pyrethroid; vector control; WHOPES

Published in

Environmental Health Perspectives
2009, Volume: 117, number: 10, pages: 1477-1480
Publisher: United States' National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG2 Zero hunger
    SDG3 Good health and well-being

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Economics and Business
    Social Sciences
    Agricultural Science

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