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PFAS Exposure Increases Cardiometabolic Risk in Children

Joseph Braun, Ph.D., Kimberly Yolton, Ph.D., Bruce Lanphear, M.D.
Brown University; Children’s Hospital Medical Center Cincinnati
P01ES011261, R01ES014575, R01ES020349, R01ES024381, R01ES027224, R01ES025214

Early life exposure to certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) was associated with higher risk for cardiometabolic disease in children, according to new NIEHS-funded research.

The researchers measured levels of four PFAS chemicals — PFOA, PFHxS, PFOS, PFNO — in serum from 221 mother–child pairs collected during pregnancy; at birth; and at ages 3, 8, and 12 years. Then they assessed cardiometabolic risk factors at 12 years using physical examinations and fasting serum biomarkers. They calculated two continuous cardiometabolic risk scores. The first was based on traditional cardiometabolic risk factors, including glucose, insulin, and waist circumference. The second was based on novel cardiometabolic risk factors, including the homeostatic model assessment for insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), adiponectin to leptin hormones ratio, and a cross-sectional area of fat inside the abdominal cavity.

Prenatal PFOA and PFHxS concentrations and levels at birth were positively associated with higher cardiometabolic risk scores at age 12 years. These positive associations were based on traditional risk factors, as well as the HOMA-IR index and adiponectin to leptin ratio. PFOA levels measured across childhood were also associated with higher high-density lipoprotein levels. Childhood PFHxS was associated with the cross-sectional area of fat in the abdomen. Early life PFOS and PFNA levels were generally not associated with either traditional or novel cardiometabolic risk scores at age 12 years.

According to the authors, these findings suggest future studies should consider using continuous cardiometabolic risk summary scores and evaluate the effect of PFAS mixtures on cardiometabolic risk.

Citation: Li N, Liu Y, Papandonatos GD, Calafat AM, Eaton CB, Kelsey KT, Cecil KM, Kalkwarf HJ, Yolton K, Lanphear BP, Chen A, Braun JM. 2021. Gestational and childhood exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and cardiometabolic risk at age 12 years. Environ Int 147:106344.


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