Low-Level Prenatal Toxin Exposures and Breastfeeding Duration: A Prospective Cohort Study

Casey B. Rosen-Carole, Peggy Auinger, Cynthia R. Howard, Elizabeth A. Brownell, Bruce P. Lanphear

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Introduction Maternal exposure to tobacco smoke is associated with shortened breastfeeding duration, but few studies have examined the effects on breastfeeding outcomes of low level exposures to other toxic chemicals. Moreover, it is unclear if passive smoking is associated with duration of breastfeeding. Our objective was therefore to examine the effect of low-level prenatal exposures to common environmental toxins (tobacco smoke, lead, and phthalates) on breastfeeding exclusivity and duration. Methods We conducted an analysis of data from the Health Outcomes and Measures of the Environment (HOME) Study. Serum and urine samples were collected at approximately 16 and 26 weeks gestation and at delivery from 373 women; 302 breastfed their infants. Maternal infant feeding interviews were conducted a maximum of eight times through 30 months postpartum. The main predictor variables for this study were gestational exposures to tobacco smoke (measured by serum cotinine), lead, and phthalates. Passive smoke exposure was defined as cotinine levels of 0.015–3.0 μg/mL. Primary outcomes were duration of any and exclusive breastfeeding. Results Serum cotinine concentrations were negatively associated with the duration of any breastfeeding (29.9 weeks unexposed vs. 24.9 weeks with passive exposure, p = 0.04; and 22.4 weeks with active exposure, p = 0.12; p = 0.03 for linear trend), but not duration of exclusive breastfeeding. Prenatal levels of blood lead and urinary phthalate metabolites were not significantly associated with duration of any or exclusive breastfeeding. Conclusions Passive exposure to tobacco smoke during pregnancy was associated with shortened duration of any breastfeeding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2245-2255
Number of pages11
JournalMaternal and Child Health Journal
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Breastfeeding
  • Cotinine
  • Duration
  • Environmental tobacco smoke
  • Exposures
  • Lead
  • Phthalates
  • Prenatal
  • Secondhand smoke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Epidemiology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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