Researchers find that a commonly found contaminant may harm nursing infants

Dec 03, 2007

Scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have shown that perchlorate—an industrial pollutant linked to thyroid ailments—is actively concentrated in breast milk. Their findings suggest that perchlorate contamination of drinking water may pose a greater health risk than previously realized. The study appears in the December 3-7 advance online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For decades, millions of Americans have been exposed to perchlorate through contamination of their local water supplies. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has so far identified 75 perchlorate releases in 22 states, primarily California and states in the Southwest. Perchlorate is known to interfere with the ability of the thyroid, mammary glands and certain other tissues to absorb iodide from the bloodstream.

“Our study suggests that high levels of perchlorate may pose a particular risk to infants,” says Dr. Nancy Carrasco, senior author of the study and professor of molecular pharmacology at Einstein. “Nursing mothers exposed to high levels of perchlorate in drinking water may not only provide less iodide to their babies, but their milk may actually pass on perchlorate, which could further deprive the infants’ thyroid glands of iodide. The thyroid requires iodide to synthesize the hormones T3 and T4 that are essential for normal development of the central nervous system. Babies who don’t make enough of these thyroid hormones may become mentally impaired.”

Iodide is relatively scarce in the diet, and tissues that need to accumulate it—the breast and thyroid in particular—are equipped with a cell-surface protein called NIS (sodium/iodide symporter) that actively pulls iodide from the bloodstream and into the cells. NIS was first identified and cloned by Dr. Carrasco’s team in 1996. In the current study, Dr. Carrasco and her colleagues injected female rats with perchlorate and then extracted the animals’ breast milk and tested it on cells that express NIS. The milk inhibited iodide transport in NIS-expressing cells, indicating that perchlorate had become concentrated in the milk.

“We found that the same protein—NIS—that actively recruits iodide into cells does the same thing for perchlorate,” says Dr. Carrasco. “In fact, NIS has a higher affinity for perchlorate than it does for iodide, which certainly heightens the risk posed by this contaminant.”

Source: Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Explore further: New compounds protect nervous system from the structural damage of MS

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A new blue-light-emitter for fireworks

Jul 10, 2014

Conventional fireworks and signal flares that emit a blue flame utilize toxic chemicals as a source of chlorine. Chemists at LMU have now developed the first chlorine-free formulation that emits blue light ...

Toxic threat from perchlorate plume slowly recedes

Jan 31, 2013

Ten years ago, community leaders were shocked by the discovery that a company that manufactured road flares here had disposed of toxic chemicals improperly, creating a 10-mile-long underground plume of perchlorate, a chemical ...

Recommended for you

3-D printing offers innovative method to deliver medication

4 hours ago

3-D printing could become a powerful tool in customizing interventional radiology treatments to individual patient needs, with clinicians having the ability to construct devices to a specific size and shape. That's according ...

Mystery of the reverse-wired eyeball solved

Feb 27, 2015

From a practical standpoint, the wiring of the human eye - a product of our evolutionary baggage - doesn't make a lot of sense. In vertebrates, photoreceptors are located behind the neurons in the back of the eye - resulting ...

Neurons controlling appetite made from skin cells

Feb 27, 2015

Researchers have for the first time successfully converted adult human skin cells into neurons of the type that regulate appetite, providing a patient-specific model for studying the neurophysiology of weight ...

Quality control for adult stem cell treatment

Feb 27, 2015

A team of European researchers has devised a strategy to ensure that adult epidermal stem cells are safe before they are used as treatments for patients. The approach involves a clonal strategy where stem cells are collected ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.