Perfluorinated compounds in umbilical cord blood and adverse birth outcomes

PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e42474. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0042474. Epub 2012 Aug 3.


Background: Previous animal studies have shown that perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) have adverse impacts on birth outcomes, but the results have been inconclusive in humans. We investigated associations between prenatal exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctyl sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), and perfluoroundecanoic acid (PFUA) and birth outcomes.

Methods: In total, 429 mother-infant pairs were recruited from the Taiwan Birth Panel Study (TBPS). Demographic data were obtained by interviewing mothers using a structured questionnaire and birth outcomes were extracted from medical records. Cord blood was collected for PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, and PFUA analysis by ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry.

Results: The geometric mean (standard deviation) levels of PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, and PFUA in cord blood plasma were 1.84 (2.23), 5.94 (1.95), 2.36(4.74), and 10.26 (3.07) ng/mL, respectively. Only PFOS levels were found to be inversely associated with gestational age, birth weight, and head circumference [per ln unit: adjusted β (95% confidence interval, CI) = -0.37 (-0.60, -0.13) wks, -110.2 (-176.0, -44.5) gm and -0.25 (-0.46, -0.05) cm]. Additionally, the odds ratio of preterm birth, low birth weight, and small for gestational age increased with PFOS exposure [per ln unit: adjusted odds ratio (OR) (95%CI) = 2.45 (1.47, 4.08), 2.61(0.85, 8.03) and 2.27 (1.25, 4.15)]. When PFOS levels were divided into quartiles, a dose-response relation was observed. However, PFOA, PFNA, and PFUA were not observed to have any convincing impact on birth outcomes.

Conclusions: An adverse dose-dependent association was observed between prenatal PFOS exposure and birth outcomes. However, no associations were found for the other examined PFCs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alkanesulfonic Acids / blood
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / metabolism*
  • Fluorocarbons / blood*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Taiwan


  • Alkanesulfonic Acids
  • Fluorocarbons
  • perfluorooctane sulfonic acid

Grant support

This study was supported by grants from the National Science Council (NSC98-2621-M-002-017, NSC98-2621-M-002-018, NSC99-2621-M-002-003, NSC99-2621-M-002-005, NSC100-2621-M-002-003, NSC100-2621-M-002-004 and NSC101-2621-M-002-005), Taiwan. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.