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Breastfeeding: Avoiding Toxic Substances

Topic Overview

While you are breastfeeding, avoid exposure to poisonous substances, which may be in contaminated water, food, or air. Heavy metals such as lead and mercury, some pesticides, and other industrial or household chemicals can sometimes end up in breast milk.

If mercury builds up to toxic levels in the human body, it can cause brain damage. Overall, fish and shellfish are healthy foods, but it's best for breastfeeding moms to avoid eating fish high in mercury. It can be harmful when mercury is passed to your baby through your breast milk.

Make sure your household and work areas are not hazardous. Use common sense to avoid strong chemicals, such as pesticides. If you are unsure or concerned about exposures, contact your local health department for information about whether special testing is warranted.

Talk to your doctor if you are unsure about your exposure to contaminants.

Other Places To Get Help

Organizations

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Women's Health
www.hrsa.gov/womenshealth/index.html
La Leche League International
www.llli.org

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerKirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology

Current as ofMarch 16, 2017

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