Levels of persistent organic pollutants in breast milk of Maya women in Yucatan, Mexico

  • Ángel G. Polanco RodríguezEmail author
  • M. Inmaculada Riba López
  • T. Angel DelValls Casillas
  • Jesús Alfredo Araujo León
  • B. Anjan Kumar Prusty
  • Fernando J. Álvarez Cervera


In this study, 24 breast milk samples, obtained from rural Maya women, from municipalities of Yucatan, Mexico, were analyzed for organochlorine pesticide (OCP) residues by gas chromatography. Recent studies have shown that Maya communities have a poor perception about the proper usage and handling of OCP. The karstic soil in this area has a high vulnerability to groundwater pollution by the use of OCP in agriculture and livestock activities. The impact of the ecosystem on human health is much more critical due to the prevailing poverty and a very low educational level of these communities. About 30% of the Maya population consumes water directly from contaminated wells and sinkholes, resulting in a chronic exposure to OCP. The samples served to identify and quantify high levels of OCP residues (18.43 mg/kg of heptachlor epoxide and 1.92 mg/kg of endrin in the metropolitan zone; 2.10 mg/kg of dieldrin, 0.117 mg/kg of endosulfan II, 0.103 mg/kg of heptachlor, 0.178 mg/kg of endrin, and 0.127 mg/kg of endrin aldehyde in the main agricultural zone and on the west coast). The detected levels of OCP residues are a major concern and represent a potential risk to women and children in the region. This could be associated with the high rates of cervical uterine and breast cancer mortality in Yucatan. Thus, regulations on the usage of OCP and their enforcement are necessary, and it is important to establish a yearly monitoring program for OCP residues in breast milk and groundwater, as well as to implement health promotion programs for women in particular and the general population in general.


Biomonitoring Breast milk Karstic aquifer Pesticides Pollution 



Part of this work was supported by UNESCO/UNITWIN_WiCoP and Erasmus Mundus Joint PHD in Marine and Coastal Management from the University of Cadiz, Spain.

The National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT) funded this project: Grant 1: M0023-Fomix Yucatán, México. Application S0008-2008-1 “Environment and Health: cervicouterine and breast cancer, factors of risk by agrochemicals and food polluted in the Yucatán State”.

Grant 2: CONACYT, application 132076 “Evaluation of pesticide levels in the Ring of Cenotes: its impact on the ecosystem and public health in the geohydrologic reserve drinking water supply to the city of Mérida and metropolitan area”.

We would like to specially thank the women volunteers who took part in this study and the physicians and hospital staff for their cooperation in gathering the donors and in the collection of samples.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ángel G. Polanco Rodríguez
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. Inmaculada Riba López
    • 2
  • T. Angel DelValls Casillas
    • 2
  • Jesús Alfredo Araujo León
    • 3
  • B. Anjan Kumar Prusty
    • 4
  • Fernando J. Álvarez Cervera
    • 5
  1. 1.Social Medicine and Public Health Department, Regional Research Center “Dr. Hideyo Noguchi”Autonomous University of YucatánMéridaMexico
  2. 2.UNESCO/UNITWIN-WiCoP. Physical Chemistry Department. Faculty of Environmental and Marine SciencesUniversity of CadizCadizSpain
  3. 3.Laboratory of Chromatography. Faculty of ChemistryAutonomous University of YucatánMéridaMexico
  4. 4.Environmental Impact Assessment DivisionGujarat Institute of Desert EcologyBhujIndia
  5. 5.Departamento de Neurociencias, Centro de Investigaciones Regionales “Dr. Hideyo Noguchi”Universidad Autónoma de YucatánMéridaMexico

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