Early-Life Exposure to Perfluoroalkyl Substances and Childhood Metabolic Function

Environ Health Perspect. 2017 Mar;125(3):481-487. doi: 10.1289/EHP303. Epub 2016 Sep 2.


Background: Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are synthetic chemicals that may persist in the environment and in humans. There is a possible association between early-life PFAS exposure and metabolic dysfunction in later life, but data are limited.

Methods: We studied 665 mother-child pairs in Project Viva, a Boston, Massachusetts-area cohort recruited 1999-2002. We quantified concentrations of PFASs [perfluorooctanoate (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorononanoate (PFNA), perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS), and perfluorodecanoate (PFDeA)] in maternal plasma collected at the first prenatal visit (median, 9.6 weeks gestation) and in child plasma from the mid-childhood research visit (median, 7.7 years). We assessed leptin, adiponectin, and homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) in mid-childhood. We fit covariate-adjusted linear regression models and conducted stratified analyses by child sex.

Results: Children with higher PFAS concentrations had lower HOMA-IR [e.g., -10.1% (95% CI: -17.3, -2.3) per interquartile range increment in PFOA]. This inverse association between child PFAS and HOMA-IR was more pronounced in females [e.g., PFOA: -15.6% (95% CI: -25.4, -4.6) vs. -6.1% (95% CI: -16.2, 5.2) for males]. Child PFAS plasma concentrations were not associated with leptin or adiponectin. Prenatal PFAS plasma concentrations were not associated with leptin, adiponectin, or HOMA-IR in offspring.

Conclusions: We found no evidence for an adverse effect of early-life PFAS exposure on metabolic function in mid-childhood. In fact, children with higher PFAS concentrations had lower insulin resistance. Citation: Fleisch AF, Rifas-Shiman SL, Mora AM, Calafat AM, Ye X, Luttmann-Gibson H, Gillman MW, Oken E, Sagiv SK. 2017. Early-life exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances and childhood metabolic function. Environ Health Perspect 125:481-487; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/EHP303.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adiponectin / blood
  • Alkanesulfonic Acids / blood
  • Boston
  • Caprylates / blood
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Female
  • Fluorocarbons / blood*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Metabolism / physiology


  • ADIPOQ protein, human
  • Adiponectin
  • Alkanesulfonic Acids
  • Caprylates
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Fluorocarbons
  • hexadecafluoro-nonanoic acid
  • perfluorooctanoic acid
  • perfluorooctane sulfonic acid
  • perflexane