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Your Environment. Your Health.

PFAS Linked With Liver Injury in Children

Lida Chatzi, M.D., Ph.D.
University of Southern California
R21ES029681, R01ES030691, R01ES029944, R01ES030364, R01ES028903, R01ES030691, P30ES007048, F32ES029828

Exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the womb may increase liver injury risk in children, according to NIEHS-funded researchers. This study is the first to examine the impact of early life exposures to a PFAS mixture on child liver injury. PFAS, a large group of synthetic chemicals found in a variety of consumer products, have been linked to immune dysfunction, altered metabolism, brain development, and certain cancers.

The study used data from 1,105 mothers and their children enrolled in the Human Early-Life Exposome, or HELIX, study in Europe. The researchers measured blood levels of six PFAS chemicals in pregnant mothers and assessed liver enzyme and metabolite levels in their children’s serum at age 6 to 9 years.

Using computational modeling, they found that higher exposures to PFAS during pregnancy were associated with higher liver enzyme levels in children, which are biomarkers of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The researchers also identified a profile for children at high risk for liver injury, characterized by high prenatal PFAS exposures and increased serum levels of compounds related to amino acid and lipid metabolism.

Because the prevalence of NAFLD in children is rapidly increasing and PFAS can cross the placenta to reach the fetus early in development, these results may provide new opportunities for liver injury prevention starting early in life, say the authors.

Citation: Stratakis N, Conti DV, Jin R, Margetaki K, Valvi D, Siskos AP, Maitre L, Garcia E, Varo N, Zhao Y, Roumeliotaki T, Vafeiadi M, Urquiza J, Fernandez-Barres S, Heude B, Basagana X, Casas M, Fossati S, Grazuleviciene R, Andrusaityte S, Uppal K, McEachan RRC, Papadopoulou E, Robinson O, Haug LS, Wright J, Vos MB, Keun HC, Vrijheid M, Berhane KT, McConnell R, Chatzi L. 2020. Prenatal exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances associated with increased susceptibility to liver injury in children. Hepatology; doi:10.1002/hep.31483 [Online 1 August 2020].

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