Lead concentrations in maternal blood, umbilical cord blood, and breast milk from 114 women who were not occupationally exposed to lead were determined by graphite atomic absorption spectrophotometry. The mean concentrations of lead in maternal blood, umbilical cord blood and breast milk were 0.7, 0.55, and 0.23 mumol/l, respectively. A significant correlation was observed between maternal and umbilical cord blood (r = 0.63). A lower correlation was noted between maternal blood and breast milk (r = 0.29). These results suggest that lead freely crosses the placental barrier from mother to fetus and the transfer of this heavy metal from maternal tissues to breast milk is possible, but the metabolic mechanisms are more complicated. In addition, a longitudinal study was conducted of concentrations of lead in breast milk in nine lactating women. Results suggested no significant change in the content of lead in breast milk during early lactation.
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