CHICAGO – Elevated exposures in children to perfluorinated compounds, which are widely used in manufacturing and food packaging, were associated with lower antibody responses to routine childhood immunizations, according to a study in the January 25 issue of JAMA.
“Fluorine-substituted organic compounds have thousands of important industrial and manufacturing applications and occur widely in surfactants and repellants in food packaging and textile impregnation. The perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are highly persistent and cause contamination of drinking water, food, and food chains,” according to background information in the article. The most common PFCs, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), and perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), are commonly detected in human serum. The immune system in mice has recently been shown to be highly sensitive to PFOS, with adverse effects on humoral (pertaining to elements in the blood or other body fluids) immunity detected at blood concentrations similar to those occurring in the U.S. population, but adverse health effects of PFC exposure are poorly understood.
Philippe Grandjean, M.D., D.M.Sc., of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, and colleagues conducted an investigation of antibody responses to diphtheria and tetanus toxoids as indicators of immunotoxicity in children, choosing the fishing community of the Faroe Islands, where frequent intake of marine food is associated with increased exposures to PFCs. The Faroe Islands are a country in the Norwegian Sea located between Scotland and Iceland. The study included 656 children born at the National Hospital in the Faroe Islands during 1999-2001. Follow-up was through 2008, with 587 participants. The researchers measured serum antibody concentrations against tetanus and diphtheria toxoids at ages 5 and 7 years of the children.