Read the full study by Heyu Huang, et al.


Background: Prenatal exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is considered to affect adversely the immune function. However, the effect of prenatal PFAS exposure on respiratory tract infections (RTIs) in children is unclear. Thus, we evaluated whether cord blood PFAS levels were associated with RTI in the first 5 years of life.

Methods: The Shanghai Prenatal Cohort is an on-going birth cohort, which included all the mothers during pregnancy. Children were followed by paediatricians once a year after birth. The levels of 10 PFAS in cord blood were tested using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. RTIs were diagnosed based on face-to-face interviews with the parents and review of medical records. Immunoglobulin G (IgG) and immunoglobulin E (IgE) levels, as biomarkers of humoral immunity, were assessed using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay at age 5 years. Multivariable logistic and linear regression models were applied to study the association between prenatal PFAS exposure and RTIs.

Results: A total of 743 children completed the follow-up, 344 of them had detail information of cord blood PFAS, IgG, and IgE concentrations. Eight PFAS were detected in more than 90% of the cord blood samples, except for perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA) and perfluorooctane sulfonamide (FOSA). During the 5-year follow-up period, the frequency of RTIs increased with age, reaching a peak at age 4. Moreover, 20.6% of the children were diagnosed with recurrent RTIs. Children with recurrent RTIs had higher perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS) concentration. Higher prenatal PFBS concentration was positively associated with total RTI frequency (β = 6.05, 95% CI [0.84, 11.26]) in first 5 years of life and negatively associated with IgG level (β = -0.82, 95% CI [-1.67, -0.01]) at age 5.

Conclusions: Children with higher prenatal PFBS were more vulnerable to RTIs in early life, which may be attributed to immunosuppression of IgG production. These findings need to be further verified in larger prospective studies.