Perfluorinated chemicals and fetal growth: a study within the Danish National Birth Cohort

Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Nov;115(11):1677-82. doi: 10.1289/ehp.10506.


Background: Perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) are man-made, persistent organic pollutants widely spread throughout the environment and human populations. They have been found to interfere with fetal growth in some animal models, but whether a similar effect is seen in humans is uncertain.

Objectives: We investigated the association between plasma levels of PFOS and PFOA in pregnant women and their infants' birth weight and length of gestation.

Methods: We randomly selected 1,400 women and their infants from the Danish National Birth Cohort among those who completed all four computer-assisted telephone interviews, provided the first blood samples between gestational weeks 4 and 14, and who gave birth to a single live-born child without congenital malformation. PFOS and PFOA were measured by high performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometer.

Results: PFOS and PFOA levels in maternal plasma were on average 35.3 and 5.6 ng/mL, respectively. Only PFOA levels were inversely associated with birth weight (adjusted beta = -10.63 g; 95% confidence interval, -20.79 to -0.47 g). Neither maternal PFOS nor PFOA levels were consistently associated with the risk for preterm birth or low birth weight. We observed no adverse effects for maternal PFOS or PFOA levels on small for gestational age.

Conclusion: Our nationwide cohort data suggest an inverse association between maternal plasma PFOA levels and birth weight. Because of widespread exposure to these chemicals, our findings may be of potential public health concern.

Keywords: PFOA; PFOS; birth weight; cord blood; length of gestation; low birth weight; maternal blood; preterm birth; small for gestational age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alkanesulfonic Acids / blood*
  • Alkanesulfonic Acids / pharmacology
  • Birth Weight* / drug effects
  • Caprylates / blood
  • Caprylates / pharmacology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Denmark
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Fetal Development / drug effects*
  • Fluorocarbons / blood*
  • Fluorocarbons / pharmacology
  • Gestational Age*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Pregnancy


  • Alkanesulfonic Acids
  • Caprylates
  • Fluorocarbons
  • perfluorooctanoic acid
  • perfluorooctane sulfonic acid