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Your Environment. Your Health.

PFAS Exposure While Pregnant Linked to Later Cardiometabolic Risk

Abby Fleisch, M.D., and Emily Oken, M.D.
Harvard University
R01ES024765, R01ES030101, K23ES024803, T32ES007069

NIEHS-funded researchers found that mothers exposed to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) during pregnancy have a higher risk for poor cardiometabolic health in the years following birth. According to the authors, this study is the first to assess associations between PFAS exposure in pregnancy and maternal cardiometabolic health after birth. PFAS, a large group of synthetic chemicals found in a variety of consumer products, have been linked to immune dysfunction, altered metabolism, and certain cancers.

The study included more than 400 pregnant women enrolled in the Project Viva cohort between 1999 and 2002. The researchers assessed associations between blood levels of six PFAS chemicals during early pregnancy and measures of cardiometabolic health three years after birth. Measures included levels of blood biomarkers linked to cardiometabolic health, blood pressure, and body measurements, such as waist and arm circumference.

Higher PFAS levels during pregnancy were associated with higher cardiometabolic risk three years after giving birth, indicated by changes in cardiometabolic biomarkers, higher blood pressure, and greater body measurements. Specifically, perfluorooctanoic acid was linked to greater arm circumference and body mass index. Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid was associated with higher blood pressure. The PFAS chemical 2-(N-ethyl-perfluorooctane sulfonamide) acetic acid was associated with higher cardiometabolic risk across both blood biomarkers and body measurements. According to the authors, results reinforce pregnancy as a sensitive window for maternal health.

Citation: Mitro SD, Sagiv SK, Fleisch AF, Jaacks LM, Williams PL, Rifas-Shiman SL, Calafat AM, Hivert MF, Oken E, James-Todd TM. 2020. Pregnancy per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance concentrations and postpartum health in Project Viva: A prospective cohort. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 105(9):e3415–e3426.

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