Chemicals in textiles and appliances linked to women’s and children’s health, studies show...

Written by Richard Larida, UP Manila-IPPAO

Two relevant studies on safe motherhood - one, which investigated the extent of brominated flame retardant (BFR) contamination in human breast milk, and another that determined the use of hydrogen peroxide as an alternative treatment for bacterial vaginosis (BV), were presented during a research forum titled, Mother’s Health is Family’s Wealth, organized on 10 June, 2011 by the Metro Manila Health Research and Development Consortium (MMHRDC) and Far Eastern University-Dr. Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation (FEU-NRMF).

BFRs in Breast Milk

Dr. Maricar S. Prudente, professor at the De La Salle University-Manila and author of the study, Brominated Flame Retardants in Breast Milk and House Dust: Implications for Human Exposure, revealed that although the amount of BFRs (considered as industrial toxic chemicals) in human breast milk is still below the critical level that may cause various developmental effects, there is a need to implement community-based programs to monitor the body burdens (total amount of foreign chemicals in the body) of persistent organic pollutants, such as BFRs.

BFRs, chemicals used to inhibit the combustibility of certain electronic equipment and textiles, are known to persist in the environment and accumulate in humans and animals. In Dr. Prudente’s study, she discovered that concentrations of polybrominated diphenylethers or PBDEs, a common type of BFR, in breast milk samples from mothers residing in Payatas, Quezon City (a dumping site) were significantly higher than those in another similar group in Leveriza, Malate (reference site).

Aside from breast milk samples, Dr. Prudente also found out that levels of PBDEs are present in house dust and canned meat from the two sites and that house dust may be regarded as the most important exposure route of BFRs for children.

During the open forum, the question, “Should breastfeeding be limited?” was raised and Dr. Prudente replied, “The lesson here is to continue breastfeeding and move toward the regulation of these compounds [BFRs] to avoid further exposure because breastfeeding helps decrease body burden.”

Hydrogen Peroxide for Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), a common antiseptic, significantly reduced the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis (BV) among a group of women at a hospital in Quezon City, the second paper presented in the forum revealed.

Dr. Jennifer T. Co, Instructor at FEU-NRMF and author of the study Efficacy of Intravaginal Hydrogen Peroxide in the Management of Bacterial Vaginosis among Premenopausal Non-Pregnant Women at the Outpatient Department of a Tertiary Hospital: A randomized controlled trial, concluded that although H2O2 is less efficacious in reducing the estimated bacterial count, it is at par with the standard treatment, which uses metronidazole, in alleviating the symptoms of BV and restoring the normal flora (Lactobacilli).

Dr. Co described BV as a condition where there is an imbalance of flora in the vaginal environment, that is, the population of pathogenic bacteria outnumbers that of the Lactobacilli. This shifting of flora causes BV, which is exhibited by the presence of a profuse, offensive-smelling discharge.

In Dr. Co’s study, the use of H2O2 reduced the amount and malodor of the discharge and that the participants who were given H2O2 treatment reported no side-effects, but with restoration of the normal vaginal flora, the effect of H2O2 was not found to be significantly different with the standard drug, metronidazole. Thus, Dr. Co recommended that future studies may explore the potential of H2O2 as an adjunct to the conventional treatment.