Prenatal exposure to perfluorinated chemicals and behavioral or coordination problems at age 7 years

Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Apr;119(4):573-8. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1002026. Epub 2010 Nov 9.


Objective: Potential neurotoxic effects of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) have been reported in highly exposed animals, but whether these chemicals are neurotoxic in humans is not known. We therefore investigated whether prenatal exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or perfluorooctane sulfate (PFOS), two of the most prevalent PFCs, are associated with behavioral or coordination problems in early childhood.

Methods: We used data from the Danish National Birth Cohort, which enrolled mothers in early pregnancy, and we measured maternal blood levels of PFOA and PFOS using specimens drawn around 8 weeks of gestation. When the children reached 7 years of age, mothers completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ, n=787) and the Developmental Coordination Disorder Questionnaire (DCDQ, n=526) to assess behavioral health and motor coordination of their children. SDQ scores above the 90th percentile were a priori defined to identify behavioral problems and DCDQ scores below the 10th percentile were defined as a potential DCD.

Results: The median concentrations of PFOS and PFOA in maternal blood were 34.4 ng/mL [interquartile range (IQR), 26.6-44.5] and 5.4 ng/mL (IQR, 4.0-7.1), respectively, similar to distributions reported for populations without occupational exposure. We found no association between higher SDQ scores and maternal levels of PFOS or PFOA, nor did we see any statistically significant association with motor coordination disorders.

Conclusion: The findings suggest that background levels of PFOA and PFOS are not associated with behavioral and motor coordination problems in childhood. However, effects on other developmental end points, including cognitive, attentional, and clinical mental disorders not measured in this study, cannot be ruled out.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alkanesulfonic Acids / blood
  • Alkanesulfonic Acids / toxicity*
  • Caprylates / blood
  • Caprylates / toxicity*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / drug effects*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Fluorocarbons / blood
  • Fluorocarbons / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / epidemiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


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