Maternal levels of perfluorinated chemicals and subfecundity

Hum Reprod. 2009 May;24(5):1200-5. doi: 10.1093/humrep/den490. Epub 2009 Jan 28.


Background: Perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) are ubiquitous man-made compounds that are possible hormonal disruptors. We examined whether exposure to these compounds may decrease fecundity in humans.

Methods: Plasma levels of PFOS and PFOA were measured at weeks 4-14 of pregnancy among 1240 women from the Danish National Birth Cohort recruited from 1996 to 2002. For this pregnancy, women reported time to pregnancy (TTP) in five categories (<1, 1-2, 3-5, 6-12 and >12 months). Infertility was defined as having a TTP of >12 months or received infertility treatment to establish this pregnancy.

Results: Longer TTP was associated with higher maternal levels of PFOA and PFOS (P < 0.001). Compared with women in the lowest exposure quartile, the adjusted odds of infertility increased by 70-134 and 60-154% among women in the higher three quartiles of PFOS and PFOA, respectively. Fecundity odds ratios (FORs) were also estimated using Cox discrete-time models. The adjusted FORs were virtually identical for women in the three highest exposure groups of PFOS (FOR = 0.70, 0.67 and 0.74, respectively) compared with the lowest quartile. A linear-like trend was observed for PFOA (FOR = 0.72, 0.73 and 0.60 for three highest quartiles versus lowest quartile). When all quartiles were included in a likelihood ratio test, the trends were significant for PFOS and PFOA (P = 0.002 and P < 0.001, respectively).

Conclusions: These findings suggest that PFOA and PFOS exposure at plasma levels seen in the general population may reduce fecundity; such exposure levels are common in developed countries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alkanesulfonic Acids / blood*
  • Alkanesulfonic Acids / toxicity
  • Caprylates / blood*
  • Caprylates / toxicity
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Female
  • Fertility / drug effects*
  • Fluorocarbons / blood*
  • Fluorocarbons / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Maternal Exposure*
  • Pregnancy
  • Time Factors


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