Maternal concentrations of perfluoroalkyl substances and fetal markers of metabolic function and birth weight: the Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals (MIREC) Study (Lay summary)

Ashley-Martin J, Dodds L, Arbuckle TE, Bouchard MF, Fisher M, Morisset AS, Monnier P, Shapiro GD, Ettinger AS, Dallaire R, Taback S, Fraser WD, Platt RW. American Journal of Epidemiology 2017 Feb 1;185(3):185-193. doi: 10.1093/aje/kww213.

Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are human-made chemicals released from industries producing household and consumer products. They can travel over long distances, easily enter the environment and remain there over a prolonged period. PFAS can cross the placental barrier resulting in fetal exposure. There are three common and persistent PFAS:  perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS), and perfluorohexanesulfanoate (PFHxS).

The Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals (MIREC) Study investigated the potential relationship between prenatal exposure to all three PFAS, infant birth weight, and biomarkers (measurable amount of substance in an organism) of adverse metabolic processes in infants. Two hormones, leptin and adiponectin, were measured in 1,247 samples of umbilical cord blood from full term births between 2008 and 2011. The majority of women who participated were 30 years of age or older, non-smokers and had a normal body mass index (BMI).

The results showed that as maternal PFOA levels increased, infant birth weight slightly decreased. Also, as maternal PFOS levels increased, there was a small decrease in umbilical cord blood leptin levels. No association was found between any of the three PFAS and cord blood adiponectin levels.

These results support previous studies with regards to maternal PFOA exposure and a small reduction in infant birth weight, although more research is needed to determine whether the observed findings persist and manifest in any clinically significant manner as the child ages.