Perfluoroalkyl Substances during Pregnancy and Offspring Weight and Adiposity at Birth: Examining Mediation by Maternal Fasting Glucose in the Healthy Start Study

Environ Health Perspect. 2017 Jun 26;125(6):067016. doi: 10.1289/EHP641.


Background: Certain perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are widespread, persistent environmental contaminants. Prenatal PFAS exposure has been associated with lower birth weight; however, impacts on body composition and factors responsible for this association are unknown.

Objectives: We aimed to estimate associations between maternal PFAS concentrations and offspring weight and adiposity at birth, and secondarily to estimate associations between PFAS concentrations and maternal glucose and lipids, and to evaluate the potential for these nutrients to mediate associations between PFAS and neonatal outcomes.

Methods: Within the Healthy Start prospective cohort, concentrations of 11 PFAS, fasting glucose, and lipids were measured in maternal mid-pregnancy serum (n=628). Infant body composition was measured using air displacement plethysmography. Associations between PFAS and birth weight and adiposity, and between PFAS and maternal glucose and lipids, were estimated via linear regression. Associations were decomposed into direct and indirect effects.

Results: Five PFAS were detectable in >50% of participants. Maternal perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) and perfluorononanoate (PFNA) concentrations were inversely associated with birth weight. Adiposity at birth was approximately 10% lower in the highest categories of PFOA, PFNA, and perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS) compared to the lowest categories. PFOA, PFNA, perfluorodecanoate (PFDeA), and PFHxS were inversely associated with maternal glucose. Up to 11.6% of the effect of PFAS on neonatal adiposity was mediated by maternal glucose concentrations. Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) was not significantly associated with any outcomes studied.

Conclusions: Follow-up of offspring will determine the potential long-term consequences of lower weight and adiposity at birth associated with prenatal PFAS exposure.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Alkanesulfonic Acids
  • Caprylates
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Fasting
  • Female
  • Fluorocarbons / blood*
  • Glucose
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies


  • Alkanesulfonic Acids
  • Caprylates
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Fluorocarbons
  • hexadecafluoro-nonanoic acid
  • perfluorooctanoic acid
  • perfluorooctane sulfonic acid
  • perflexane
  • Glucose