DDT levels in human milk in Hong Kong, 2001-02

L. L. Hui, A. J. Hedley, K. Kypke, B. J. Cowling, E. A.S. Nelson, T. W. Wong, F. X.R. van Leeuwen, R. Malisch

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


High levels of p,p′-DDT were detected in Hong Kong breast milk sampled in 1976 and 1985. Monitoring DDT levels in human breast milk in this region is important to identify trends in exposure. As part of the 2002-03 WHO/EURO coordinated exposure study, the concentrations of DDT and its metabolites were determined in 10 pooled milk samples classified by geographic origin and dietary history, comprising milk samples from 238 primiparous mothers giving birth in Hong Kong. Analysis was performed by Gas Chromatography (GC) with electron capture detector and confirmed by GC/Mass Spectrometry. The sum-DDT concentration (range: 0.92-2.05 mg/kg fat) was age-dependent and indicated a decreasing trend since the 1970s. Mothers who recently came from mainland China had higher p,p′-DDT to p,p′-DDE ratios, suggesting a more recent exposure compared to women mainly residing in Hong Kong. The average Hong Kong sum-DDT level (1.50 mg/kg fat) was among the highest of the contemporary levels (range: 0.12-1.97 mg/kg fat; median: 0.40 mg/kg fat) in the 16 countries/regions participating in the 2002-03 WHO/EURO exposure study. This is probably due to the previous extensive DDT exposure and continuing use of DDT in agriculture in mainland China. Despite the apparent decrease of DDT body load over 30 years, the environmental health hazard from DDT contamination in the Pearl River Delta region remains a concern. Measures to eradicate illegal use of DDT in mainland China and regular food monitoring programs are needed in the region. Despite the presence of DDT and other persistent organic pollutants in human breast milk, breastfeeding should continue to be strongly supported for its life-long benefits to infants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-55
Number of pages6
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Breast milk
  • DDD
  • DDE
  • DDT
  • Hong Kong

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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