Pre-natal exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances may be associated with altered vaccine antibody levels and immune-related health outcomes in early childhood

Berit Granum*, Line S. Haug, Ellen Namork, Solvor B. Stolevik, Cathrine Thomsen, Ingeborg S. Aaberge, Henk van Loveren, Martinus Lovik, Unni C. Nygaard

*Corresponding author for this work

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Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are suggested to have immunosuppressive effects; exposure in utero and in the first years of life is of special concern as fetuses and small children are highly vulnerable to toxicant exposure. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of prenatal exposure to PFAS on responses to pediatric vaccines and immune-related health outcomes in children up to 3 years of age. In the prospective birth-cohort BraMat, a sub-cohort of the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa), pregnant women from Oslo and Akershus, Norway, were recruited during 2007-2008. Three annual questionnaire-based follow-ups were performed. Blood samples were collected from the mothers at the time of delivery and from the children at the age of 3 years. As a measure of pre-natal exposure to PFAS, the concentrations of perfluorooctanoate (PFOA), perfluorononanoate (PFNA), perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS), and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) were determined in maternal blood from 99 BraMat participants. Main outcome measures were anti-vaccine antibody levels, common infectious diseases and allergy-and asthma-related health outcomes in the children up to the age of 3 years. There was an inverse association between the level of anti-rubella antibodies in the children's serum at age 3 years and the concentrations of the four PFAS. Furthermore, there was a positive association between the maternal concentrations of PFOA and PFNA and the number of episodes of common cold for the children, and between PFOA and PFHxS and the number of episodes of gastroenteritis. No associations were found between maternal PFAS concentrations and the allergy-and asthma-related health outcomes investigated. The results indicate that pre-natal exposure to PFAS may be associated with immunosuppression in early childhood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-379
JournalJournal of Immunotoxicology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Childhood
  • infections
  • immunotoxicity
  • perfluoroalkyl substances
  • Pre-natal exposure
  • vaccination response

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