Levels of organochlorine pesticides residues in milk of urban mothers in Kenya
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Organochlorine compounds (OCPs) are toxic products capable of producing serious adverse health consequences. When used to control pests, certain OCPs persist in the environment and accumulate in the fatty tissues of living organisms, reaching higher levels in animals higher in the food chain. Many countries have therefore either restricted or banned the use of OCPs. DDT used to be widely used in Kenya to control pests, but is now used only to control mosquito populations. The contamination of human milk by organochlorine and other related compounds is a major concern in many parts of the world. Findings are reported from a study conducted to assess the levels of OCPs in an urban area of Kenya and to compare OCP levels in human milk from a previous study in rural areas of the country. 216 milk samples were collected from mothers aged 18-30 years in hospital maternity wards or attending postnatal clinics in selected areas in Nairobi in 1991. All mothers involved in the study were nursing either their first or second child, and had lived in Nairobi for at least 5 years before the date of sampling. Samples were collected from mothers who were up to 4 weeks postpartum and analyzed for the presence of OCP residues. 9 OCPs were detected, with p,p'DDT and p,p'DDE being the most frequently encountered contaminants in all samples analyzed. p,p'DDE was detected in 99.5% and p,p'DDT in 78.2% of all samples. Other residues detected were dieldrin (27%), beta-HCH (18.5%), lindane (12%), and alpha-HCH (8.8%). Levels of sum DDT ranged from 0.004 to 6.321 mg/kg fat. Mothers living in Nairobi have low levels of OCPs in their breast milk compared to mothers in rural areas. The relatively lower urban levels could be attributed to the restricted use of OCPs. People need to be taught how to safely use pesticides.