Exposure to Perfluoroalkyl Substances and Metabolic Outcomes in Pregnant Women: Evidence from the Spanish INMA Birth Cohorts

Environ Health Perspect. 2017 Nov 13;125(11):117004. doi: 10.1289/EHP1062.


Background: Exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) may increase risk for metabolic diseases; however, epidemiologic evidence is lacking at the present time. Pregnancy is a period of enhanced tissue plasticity for the fetus and the mother and may be a critical window of PFAS exposure susceptibility.

Objective: We evaluated the associations between PFAS exposures and metabolic outcomes in pregnant women.

Methods: We analyzed 1,240 pregnant women from the Spanish INMA [Environment and Childhood Project (INfancia y Medio Ambiente)] birth cohort study (recruitment period: 2003-2008) with measured first pregnancy trimester plasma concentrations of four PFASs (in nanograms/milliliter). We used logistic regression models to estimate associations of PFASs (log10-transformed and categorized into quartiles) with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), and we used linear regression models to estimate associations with first-trimester serum levels of triglycerides, total cholesterol, and C-reactive protein (CRP).

Results: Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS) were positively associated with IGT (137 cases) [OR per log10-unit increase=1.99 (95% CI: 1.06, 3.78) and OR=1.65 ( 95% CI: 0.99, 2.76), respectively]. PFOS and PFHxS associations with GDM (53 cases) were in a similar direction, but less precise. PFOS and perfluorononanoate (PFNA) were negatively associated with triglyceride levels [percent median change per log10-unit increase=-5.86% (95% CI: -9.91%, -1.63%) and percent median change per log10-unit increase=-4.75% (95% CI: -8.16%, -0.61%, respectively], whereas perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) was positively associated with total cholesterol [percent median change per log10-unit increase=1.26% (95% CI: 0.01%, 2.54%)]. PFASs were not associated with CRP in the subset of the population with available data (n=640).

Conclusions: Although further confirmation is required, the findings from this study suggest that PFAS exposures during pregnancy may influence lipid metabolism and glucose tolerance and thus may impact the health of the mother and her child. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP1062.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkanesulfonic Acids / blood
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Caprylates / blood
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diabetes, Gestational / epidemiology
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Female
  • Fluorocarbons / blood*
  • Glucose Intolerance / epidemiology
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Humans
  • Maternal Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pregnancy


  • Alkanesulfonic Acids
  • Caprylates
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Fluorocarbons
  • hexadecafluoro-nonanoic acid
  • C-Reactive Protein
  • perfluorooctanoic acid
  • perfluorooctane sulfonic acid
  • perflexane