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Polychlorinated Biphenyls

Volume 173: debated on Tuesday 5 June 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what studies have been undertaken to establish levels of polychlorinated biphenyls in breast milk; and if he will make a statement.

The results of surveys on polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) residues in food and human tissues, conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, have been published in food surveillance papers 13 and 16, copies of which are available in the Library. The levels of PCBs in breast milk have fallen. The Committee on the Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment has considered the report of the working party on pesticide residues and in commenting on PCB residues in human breast milk said

"the levels of PCBs found in the UK survey are at least one order of magnitude below the lowest levels which are claimed to have had adverse effects on infant health".

A further, more comprehensive, survey on the levels of PCBs and other organochlorine residues in human breast milk is currently under way. The results should be available at the end of this year.