Higher blood levels of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) during pregnancy may interfere with glucose and lipid metabolism . This is the main conclusion of a study led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), a centre supported by the "la Caixa" Banking Foundation, andrecently published in Environmental Health Perspectives.
The study was performed by researchers from ISGlobal and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who analysed 1.240 pregnant women from the INMA (Environment & Childhood) birth cohorts in Sabadell, Valencia and Guipuzkoa. Blood samples collected during the pregnancy were used to measure the concentrations of four different PFASs (PFOS, PFHxS, PFOA and PFNA) and different metabolic markers.
Findings from this and previous studies of the INMA birth cohort, as well as growing epidemiologic and animal evidence, point to a role of ubiquitous environmental chemical exposures in the current epidemics of obesity and diabetes, likely in combination with other lifestyle factors, such as diet and physical inactivity.
PFASs have been used in many applications since the 1950s, including industrial appliances and consumer products. These substances accumulate in the food chain and in animal and human tissues, and persist in the environment and living organisms for years. The routes of human exposure to PFASs include diet, migration from packaged foods, drinking water and inhalation of indoor dust.
Results from this study show that PFOS and PFHxS concentrations in plasma were associated with impaired glucose tolerance and gestational diabetes, although in the case of PFHxS the data were closer to the null. PFOA was associated with total cholesterol levels while PFOS and PFNA were associated with slight decreases in triglyceride levels. No association was found between PFASs and C-reactive protein, which is a marker of inflammation.
"To our knowledge, this is the largest study of associations between PFAS exposure and multiple metabolic outcomes in pregnant women", states Martine Vrijheid, ISGlobal researcher and coordinator of the study. "Gestational diabetes is associated with a range of short and long term health conditions for both the mother and the baby. For that reason, we believe it is critical to confirm our results with further studies in other populations", states Nuria Matilla-Santander, first author of the paper.
Matilla-Santander, N., Valvi, D., Lopez-Espinosa,M.J. Manzano-Salgado, C.B., Ballester, F., Ibarluzea, J., Santa-Marina, L., Schettgen, T., Guxens, M., Sunyer, J., and Vrijheid, M. Exposure to Perfluoroalkyl Substances and Metabolic Outcomes in Pregnant Women: Evidence from the Spanish INMA Birth Cohorts . Environmental Health Perspectives. Environ Health Perspect; Nov. 2017 DOI:10.1289/EHP1062