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Chemicals in Our Environment Impact Children's Health Through Breastfeeding

Amalie Timmermann from the National Institute of Public Health aims to explore the interplay between environmental chemicals and breastfeeding. She has received a Sapere Aude grant of just over six million Danish kroner for this project.

By Marianne Lie Becker, , 11/29/2023

Breastfeeding holds a range of well-documented positive health effects for both the child and the mother. For the mother, it contributes to reducing the risk of breast cancer, while for the child, it can help prevent infections.

These benefits of breastfeeding are emphasized by health authorities such as the Danish Health Authority. However, environmental chemicals can influence the ability to breastfeed.

Furthermore, chemicals, including persistent organic pollutants like PFAS, are transferred through breast milk, potentially harming the child's immune system.
Meet the researcher

Amalie Timmermann is a associate professor at the National Institute of Public Health. As an epidemiologist, her research involves health data from cohort studies and registries.


We know there's a connection between harmful chemicals and children's health, and some chemicals are transferred through breastfeeding. Yet, we lack sufficient knowledge about how chemicals in our environment affect breastfeeding and children's health.

Amalie Timmermann, Lecturer at the National Institute of Public Health at SDU

By utilizing data from biological measurements—such as breast milk, blood, urine, stool samples—as well as questionnaire data collected from mothers and their children in Denmark, Norway, and the USA, Timmermann aims to identify environmental chemicals affecting the duration of breastfeeding. Additionally, she intends to investigate the interplay between PFAS exposure and breastfeeding concerning children's immune systems.

-We know that gut bacteria play a central role in the maturation of the immune system early in life. Therefore, we will also examine how breastfeeding and PFAS in breast milk impact the composition of children's gut bacteria, elaborates Amalie Timmermann.

-Through this, we aim to develop better insights into the interaction between environmental chemicals and breastfeeding, crucial for legislative decisions regarding the use of environmental chemicals and for establishing evidence-based clinical guidelines – ultimately promoting the health of mothers and children.


Project title

"Breastfeeding and environmental chemicals. Can and should all mothers breastfeed?"

Do you want to know more?

Read more about the research from the National Institute of Public Health.

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Editing was completed: 29.11.2023