UP: Pesticides in breast milk suspected of killing 111 infants
As many as 111 infants mysteriously died in the last 10 months in Maharajganj district of Uttar Pradesh. A study conducted by Lucknow's Queen Mary Hospital suggested pesticides found in the breast milk of pregnant women could have caused these deaths. The study was conducted on 130 women, and it found fewer pesticides in the milk of vegetarian women compared to non-vegetarian ones.
Why does this story matter?
- In recent years, researchers have flagged the presence of pesticides in breast milk, calling for the government to control the excessive use of synthetic pesticides in farming.
- In 2015, a study in Haryana's Sirsa by Chaudhary Devi Lal University found the presence of pesticide residue in breast milk at 0.12mg per kilogram, which is 100 times more than the World Health Organization's (WHO) estimates.
Chemical farming likely cause, it's entered our food chain: Study
The study stated the reason for pesticides in breast milk is chemical farming, and it has made its way into our food chain. Various types of pesticides and insecticides are pumped into vegetables and other crops, while animals are injected with supplements and chemicals. Meanwhile, a Maharajganj administration-constituted three-member committee chaired by the Chief Development Officer (CDO) will ascertain the cause of infant mortalities.
Non-vegetarians likely to be more susceptible
The study conducted by Professor Sujata Dev, Dr. Abbas Ali Mehndi, and Dr. Naina Dwivedi was also published in the Environmental Research journal. It stated that the amount of pesticides present in the breast milk of a non-vegetarian woman is three times more than that of a vegetarian woman. Although in varying amounts, the food items consumed by vegetarians or non-vegetarians contain pesticide residue.
Pesticides entering human body through biomagnification
The Sirsa study showed pesticides were entering inside the human body through a process called biomagnification. The fodder given to milch animals contains pesticide residue—which infects their milk—and in turn, enters the human body upon consumption. Moreover, fat-soluble chemicals get accumulated in the mother's body, leading to milk laced with pesticides. When an infant is breastfed, the synthetic residue gets magnified by 10 times.