Our friends over at PAZ (Pan American Zoonotic Research and Prevention) are looking into the negative effects of heavy metals on infant and child health.
While arsenic levels in breast milk are low even in the face of exposure by ingestion, prenatal arsenic exposure increases the risk for spontaneous abortion and stillbirth. Surviving infants whose mothers have exposed are more susceptible to pneumonia and diarrhea in infancy. Children exposed themselves to arsenic via drinking water have 10 times greater risk of developing fatal liver cancer while young. Susceptibility to arsenic poisoning is thought to be enhanced by poor nutritional level, especially low folic acid levels.
The concern of PAZ is that in Peru–where the extraction of metals is one of the main drivers of the economy–that mining will increase the exposure of children and pregnant moms to toxic levels of arsenic.