Early life perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) exposure and overweight and obesity risk in adulthood in a community with elevated exposure

Environ Res. 2014 Jul:132:62-9. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2014.03.025. Epub 2014 Apr 16.


Background: Infants and young children may be susceptible to developmental effects of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) exposure. Two previous studies, one that examined a general population exposed to environmental PFOA levels and one conducted in mice exposed to experimental PFOA levels, found that early life exposure was associated with higher body mass index (BMI) in adulthood and effects may be stronger in women than in men.

Objectives: Examine whether elevated early life PFOA exposure was associated with adult BMI among a group of mid-Ohio valley residents exposed to a wide range of early life PFOA levels due to emissions from a chemical plant.

Methods: The cohort consisted of 8764 adults aged 20-40 years who reported height and weight on a survey between 2008 and 2011. Annual retrospective early life PFOA serum concentrations were estimated for each participant based on residential history and nearby chemical plant emissions as well as background exposure not originating from the facility. We defined early life exposure as the estimated average PFOA serum concentration over the first three years of life. We examined the association between early life PFOA exposure and adult overweight (BMI ≥ 25 kg/m(2)) and obesity (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m(2)) risk using logistic and linear regression models.

Results: Nearly half the participants (45%) had early life PFOA exposure serum concentration estimates above background levels. Using participants who were exposed only to background PFOA levels as the referent category with quintiles of exposure above background, adjusted odds ratios (and 95% confidence intervals) for overweight risk by increasing exposure category for women were 1.0 (ref), 1.0 (0.8, 1.3), 1.0 (0.8, 1.2), 1.0 (0.8, 1.2), 0.9 (0.7, 1.1), and 0.9 (0.7, 1.1) and for men were 1.0 (ref), 0.9 (0.6, 1.1), 1.0 (0.7, 1.3), 1.0 (0.8, 1.4), 0.7 (0.5, 0.9), and 0.9 (0.7, 1.1). Odds ratios for adult obesity risk were similar. Regression coefficients from linear models using BMI as a continuous outcome showed no association between early life PFOA exposure and adult BMI.

Conclusions: Elevated levels of PFOA exposure in early life were not associated with overweight and obesity risk in adulthood and results did not vary by sex.

Keywords: BMI; C8; Obesity; PFOA; Perfluorooctanoic acid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Caprylates / blood
  • Caprylates / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Fluorocarbons / blood
  • Fluorocarbons / toxicity*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / chemically induced*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / blood
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*
  • West Virginia / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Caprylates
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • perfluorooctanoic acid