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A General Model of Dioxin Contamination in Breast Milk: Results from a Study on 94 Women from the Caserta and Naples Areas in Italy



The Caserta and Naples areas in Campania Region experience heavy environmental contamination due to illegal waste disposal and burns, thus representing a valuable setting to develop a general model of human contamination with dioxins (PCDDs-PCDFs) and dioxin-like-PCBs (dl-PCBs).


94 breastfeeding women (aged 19-32 years; mean age 27.9 ± 3.0) were recruited to determine concentrations of PCDDs-PCDFs and dl-PCBs in their milk. Individual milk samples were collected and analyzed according to standard international procedures. A generalized linear model was used to test potential predictors of pollutant concentration in breast milk: age, exposure to waste fires, cigarette smoking, diet, and residence in high/low risk area (defined at high/low environmental pressure by a specific 2007 WHO report). A Structural Equation Model (SEM) analysis was carried out by taking into account PCDDs-PCDFs and dl-PCBs as endogenous variables and age, waste fires, risk area and smoking as exogenous variables.


All milk samples were contaminated by PCDDs-PCDFs (8.6 pg WHO-TEQ/98g fat ± 2.7; range 3.8-19) and dl-PCBs (8.0 pg WHO-TEQ/98g fat ± 3.7; range 2.5-24), with their concentrations being associated with age and exposure to waste fires (p < 0.01). Exposure to fires resulted in larger increases of dioxins concentrations in people living in low risk areas than those from high risk areas (p < 0.01).


A diffuse human exposure to persistent organic pollutants was observed in the Caserta and Naples areas. Dioxins concentration in women living in areas classified at low environmental pressure in 2007 WHO report was significantly influenced by exposure to burns.

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