Read the full study by Louise Dalsager et al. (Environment International)


Introduction: The immunosuppressive properties of PFASs are widely recognized. Early-life exposure to PFAS has been linked to reduced immune response to childhood vaccinations and increased rates of common infectious diseases, but implications for hospitalizations are unclear.

Objectives: To investigate the association between maternal serum concentrations of five PFASs during pregnancy and the child’s rate of hospitalization due to common infectious diseases between birth and 4 years of age.

Methods: Serum samples from first trimester pregnant women from the Odense Child Cohort (OCC) collected in 2010-2012 were analyzed for concentrations of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and three other PFASs. Data on child hospitalizations with an ICD-10 code for infectious disease was obtained from the Danish National Patient Register. The following were identified: upper respiratory tract infections (URTI), lower respiratory tract infections (LRTI), gastrointestinal infections (GI), and other infections. The Andersen-Gill Cox proportional hazard model for recurrent events was used to investigate the association between PFAS exposure and hospitalizations. The resulting estimates were hazard ratios (HRs), which express the relative change in the instantaneous risk of hospitalization with a doubling in maternal PFAS concentration.

Results: A total of 1,503 mother-child pairs were included, and 26% of the children were hospitalized at least once for infectious disease. A doubling in maternal PFOS concentration was associated with a 23% increase in the risk of hospitalization due to any infection (HR: 1.23 (95% CI: 1.05, 1.44). There was indication of an interaction between child sex and PFOS (p = 0.07) and PFDA (p = 0.06), although in opposite directions. Further, every doubling of PFOA or PFOS increased the risk of LRTI by 27% (HR: 1.27 (1.01, 1.59)) and 54% (HR: 1.54 (1.11, 2.15)), respectively. Similar tendencies were seen for URTI and the group of other infections. For GIs, the opposite pattern of association was seen as HR’s were consistently below 1 (PFOA, HR: 0.55 (0.32, 0.95)).

Discussion: We found an association between PFOS and the overall risk of infectious disease, and between PFOS and PFOA exposures and the risk of LRTI’s. These results are in agreement with previous findings from the OCC, in which maternal PFOS and PFOA concentrations were positively associated with the number of days that the children experienced fever, thereby suggesting that PFOS and PFOA may affect the prevalence of both mild and more severe infectious diseases even in a rather low-exposed population.