Residues of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in human milk in Hong Kong

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

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Data on pesticide body load in the south China region are scarce. Here, we report the concentrations of 24 persistent organic pollutants (POPs), in 10 pools of human milk samples, collected at 2-6 weeks postpartum from 238 primiparous women living in Hong Kong and south China, who participated in the 2002-2003 WHO exposure study. Residues were determined by gas chromatography with electron capture detector and confirmed by gas chromatography with mass spectrometry. The mean levels of alpha-HCH (mean 0.6 ng g-1 fat), beta-HCH (940 ng g-1 fat), gamma-HCH (1.8 ng g-1 fat), dieldrin (1.0 ng g-1 fat) and HCB (21.8 ng g-1 fat) were much lower than the 1985 estimates. Mean levels of alpha-HCH, gamma-HCH, dieldrin, cis-heptachlor-epoxide (0.7 ng g-1 fat), sum-chlordane (6.1 ng g-1 fat), trans-nonachlor (12.0 ng g-1 fat), BDE 47 (1.9 ng g-1 fat) and sum PBDE (3.4 ng g-1 fat) were comparable to the international median levels of the 15 other countries participating in the 2002-03 WHO exposure study. Hong Kong had the highest level of beta-HCH, possibly a residual effect of previous high exposures in the 1970s. Body loads of beta-HCH and chlordane were lower among mothers with younger age while mothers born in mainland China had lower levels of beta-HCH, cis-heptachlor-epoxide, oxy-chlordane and trans-nonachlor. Levels of toxaphene, endrin, endosulfan, bromcyclene and nitrofen were not detected in all or almost all of the milk pools. Continuous monitoring of POPs in human milk, especially beta-HCH, is needed for surveillance and interpretation of time trends, and for linkage to strict enforcement of agricultural regulations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-265
Number of pages7
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010


  • Hong Kong
  • Human milk
  • Pearl River Delta
  • Persistent organic pollutants
  • Pesticide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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