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  • The Norwegian Human Milk Study - HUMIS (project description)


The Norwegian Human Milk Study - HUMIS (project description) - project description

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The “Norwegian Human Milk Study” (HUMIS) is a multi-center birth cohort of mother-child pairs. The aim of the study is to map the levels of environmental toxicants in breast milk, identify factors related to high levels, and see if there is regional differences. We will also study the relationship between environmental toxicants and the child’s health. The child’s birth weight and growth, neurodevelopment, infection tendency and allergy development are things we are studying.


Breast milk is a unique source of nutrients for a child. It is carefully adapted to the infant’s nutritional needs, contains unique ingredients that promote the maturation of the gut, affects the intestinal flora, and protects the child from infections. In addition, it provides a unique bond between mother and child.

Unfortunately, breast milk also contains contaminants. During pregnancy and during breastfeeding, the environmental toxicants transfers from the mother to the fetus/child. However, we know very little about the effects on the child’s health, nor much about what each individual can do to reduce their levels. WHO has requested such research to be done.

Who participates in HUMIS?

Mother-child pairs were recruited between 2002 and 2009. Within approximately two weeks of giving birth, public health nurses recruited mothers during a routine home visit to all new mothers in Norway, except in Østfold county where mothers were recruited at the maternity ward, two consecutive term births for every preterm. A great effort made by public health nurses and the mothers has led us to have 2606 mother-child pairs included in HUMIS.

Some mothers participating in HUMIS are also participants of NoMIC.

Collection of data

Participants were asked to collect a 25 ml breast milk sample each morning for eight consecutive days, preferably sampled between 2 weeks and two months in line with the WHO recommendation, but they were informed that milk sampled otherwise was also accepted, but changes in sampling protocol were noted. The milk was stored in a 250 ml container kept in the freezer. Date and time of collection were recorded for each sample, as well as if a breast pump had been used.

In addition the mothers were asked to fill out a questionnaire when the child was one month, six months, 1 year, 2 years and 10-12 years old. The questionnaires surveyed factors that could be of significance for the levels of environmental toxicants in the breast milk, as well as following the child’s health.

A copy of the pregnancy journal, and the child's hospital record, as well as information from the Medical Birth Registry of Norway (MBRN) and the Norwegian Patient Registry (NPR) was obtained. 

Informed consent was obtained prior to the study and the Norwegian Data Inspectorate and Regional Ethics Committee (REK) approved the study for Medical Research.

Toxicants analyzed

So far, among the 2.606 participants in the HUMIS study, 1250 women have had their milk samples analyzed for POPs (due to financial constraints not everyone could be analyzed at once).  The median age of child at start of sampling was 32 days after delivery (min 2 days, max 171 days).

Scientific articles

EU projects in which HUMIS has participated



Project owner/ Project manager


Project manager

Merete Åse Eggesbø

Responsible FHI

Merete Eggesbø