Relevance of Geographic Location to Breastfeeding Rates and to

Levels of Environmental Toxins that Enter Breast Milk


Low-Breastfeeding and High-Breastfeeding Countries:

Irish breast-feeding rates, at least at initiation, are the lowest of any major people in Western Europe or North America, with the closest second being France (1).  

EU_3moBF Fig. 1.9

Belgian and U.K. breastfeeding rates are obviously also very low. 


Very high rates of breastfeeding for Norway, Finland and Sweden are conspicuous on this chart.  A 2001 report for Denmark shows that country with a 99% breastfeeding rate (2)   For Switzerland, breastfeeding rates are not shown here, but they are very high.  According to statistics quoted in the LaLeche League’s breastfeeding data web page, Australia and New Zealand are both well into the high-breastfeeding category.  


The above are presented in support of the finding that the European countries with low childhood cancer rates are the ones with low breastfeeding rates, and the ones with higher childhood cancer rates all have high breastfeeding rates.


The Northeastern Coastal Corridor, and Population Density:

Looking at a map showing rates of cancer, it is easy to see the northeastern corridor of the U.S., almost solid red, which tends to coincide with higher population density. (Fig. 4 of The four states with the very highest population densities in the entire U.S. are New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut.  And those states are also not hard to find in a general atmospheric pollution map if one looks closely for completely-colored-in states, indicating unusually widespread, high levels of atmospheric toxins in those states. 


In addition to population-related pollution generated within Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts, these states (plus high-cancer Maine) are downwind in the receiving region for the northeastern corridor's population-, industry- and traffic-related air pollution that extends northeast from Washington, D.C. and is typically blown up the coast by the prevailing winds.  This atmospheric stream picks up extra potency in the high-density Philadelphia/Northern New Jersey/New York City area and also receives contributions from (a) polluted areas farther west in Pennsylvania, and (b) from the considerable shipping and other traffic going to and from the Atlantic port cities. (This image is a wind forecast, based on typical known wind patterns, provided by 


All six of the states that fall entirely within this coastal corridor are also at the very highest level of cancer incidence, as seen in the map of U.S. cancer incidence in Figure 4 of . New Hampshire and Maine are not high-density or heavily industrial contributors to the pollution in this stream but they are both very much downwind on the receiving end of it, as can be seen looking north from Boston on this map. 



The only other state, of all 50 states, that is in the group with the highest cancer incidence is Kentucky; it is probably not merely coincidental that Kentucky is home to the number-one-by-far U.S. dioxin-emitting factory, Westlake Vinyls, Inc., with 15 times the releases of the second-place emitter and 31 times that of the third-place emitter.(4)



Maine has one of the higher breastfeeding rates in the U.S. in CDC surveys.  This state also has very unusually large numbers of paper and pulp mills (19, most of which include the more-polluting pulp operation);(3) and Maine (along with Minnesota) has the least benefit from solar radiation among the 48 contiguous states.  Its cold winters mean that levels of combustion (source of dioxins, particulate matter and PAHs) would be high, especially from residential burning of Maine's abundant wood.  See the next section and also Section 3 of about the disadvantages of reduced sunshine.


The 90% forest cover in Maine would further reduce the already minimal amount of beneficial solar radiation received at ground level in that state. The large number of unpaved roads in Maine (“Vacationland” and logging country) probably contributes to volatilization and drainage release of dioxins contained in soil, via road dust and erosion.  (see Section 1.7.2 of for information about the long-accumulating stores of dioxins in soil)


Advantages of low-precipitation regions and sunny climates:

In addition to reduced deposition of toxins, low-precipitation zones also receive more sunshine than is normal for their latitudes; this is partly because of reduced cloud cover and partly because of very little forest cover in these areas to shield the deposited dioxins from destruction by solar radiation.  A greater amount of solar radiation (a) reduces formation of dioxins (by drying up HCL that would otherwise be available to provide chlorine needed for creation of dioxins), (b) shortens the toxic lives of dioxins that are present, and (c) enables the body to create vitamin D, thereby promoting immune function (more detail in Section 3 of .  


Low precipitation areas (except in California) are also typically low in population density, which means less combustion of all kinds taking place, and therefore less creation of dioxins and PAHs.


 Click on your browser's back arrow or here to return to


(1) See Figures 1.8 and 1.9; Also data provided by LaLeche League for Northern Ireland, accessed at, in line with data for Dublin area from:  Public Health Nutrition. "Breast-feeding practices in Ireland",  Tarrant RC, Kearney JM., School of Biological Sciences, Dublin Institute of Technology, Republic of Ireland, accessed at Proc Nutr Soc. 2008 Nov;67(4):371-80. Epub 2008 Aug 20.

 (2) “Report on a WHO/UNICEF consultation for the WHO European region for the development of a global strategy on infant and young child feeding, Budapest 28 May- 1 June 2001”, Table 5.1


(4)  data from EPA 2010 Toxics Release Inventory, cited in January 2012 Institute for Southern Studies chart