Concentration of trichloroethylene in breast milk and household water from Nogales, Arizona

Paloma I. Beamer, Catherine E. Luik, Leif Abrell, Swilma Campos, María Elena Martínez, A. Eduardo Sáez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The United States Environmental Protection Agency has identified quantification of trichloroethylene (TCE), an industrial solvent, in breast milk as a high priority need for risk assessment. Water and milk samples were collected from 20 households by a lactation consultant in Nogales, Arizona. Separate water samples (including tap, bottled, and vending machine) were collected for all household uses: drinking, bathing, cooking, and laundry. A risk factor questionnaire was administered. Liquid-liquid extraction with diethyl ether was followed by GC-MS for TCE quantification in water. Breast milk underwent homogenization, lipid hydrolysis, and centrifugation prior to extraction. The limit of detection was 1.5 ng/mL. TCE was detected in 7 of 20 mothers' breast milk samples. The maximum concentration was 6 ng/mL. TCE concentration in breast milk was significantly correlated with the concentration in water used for bathing (ρ = 0.59, p = 0.008). Detection of TCE in breast milk was more likely if the infant had a body mass index <14 (RR = 5.2, p = 0.02). Based on average breast milk consumption, TCE intake for 5% of the infants may exceed the proposed U.S. EPA Reference Dose. Results of this exploratory study warrant more in depth studies to understand risk of TCE exposures from breast milk intake.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9055-9061
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 21 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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