Philippe Grandjean, M.D.
Harvard School of Public Health
Women with gestational diabetes may transfer more per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to their fetuses than women without gestational diabetes, according to an NIEHS-funded study. PFAS are synthetic chemicals found in a wide variety of consumer products that have been linked with a variety of health problems, including cancer, and impacts on hormone levels, the immune system, and development.
The researchers analyzed blood and umbilical cord samples from 151 mother-newborn pairs in the Faroe Islands to determine the amount of 17 PFAS compounds transferred from mom to baby. They found that women with higher PFAS concentrations in their blood were more likely to have babies with higher PFAS concentrations in cord blood. They also identified specific characteristics of different PFAS compounds that were important predictors of maternal transfer. They reported that gestational diabetes was also a strong predictor of transfer, with significantly higher transfer of PFAS among mothers with gestational diabetes than those without.
The team reported high maternal transfer for certain PFAS compounds with a longer chain of linked carbon atoms, which may raise health concerns, because the toxicity of PFAS tends to increase with increasing carbon chain length. According to the authors, their results point to important factors in maternal transfer of PFAS that can inform how scientists study human exposure and potential health risks.
Citation: Eryasa B, Grandjean P, Nielsen F, Valvi D, Zmirou-Navier D, Sunderland E, Weihe P, Oulhote Y. 2019. Physico-chemical properties and gestational diabetes predict transplacental transfer and partitioning of perfluoroalkyl substances. Environ Int 130:104874.