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.