Prenatal exposure to persistent organic pollutants and child overweight/obesity at 5-year follow-up: a prospective cohort study

Environ Health. 2018 Jan 18;17(1):9. doi: 10.1186/s12940-017-0338-x.


Background: Prenatal exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs), may influence offspring weight gain. More prospective epidemiological studies are needed to compliment the growing body of evidence from animal studies.

Methods: Serum from 412 pregnant Norwegian and Swedish women participating in a Scandinavian prospective cohort study were collected in 1986-88, and analyses of two perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) and five organochlorines (OCs) were conducted. We used linear and logistic regression models with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) to evaluate the associations between maternal serum POP concentrations at 17-20 weeks of gestation and child overweight/obesity (body mass index (BMI) ≥ 85th percentile) at 5-year follow-up. Results were further stratified by country after testing for effect modification. We also assessed potential non-monotonic dose-response (NMDR) relationships.

Results: In adjusted linear models, we observed increased BMI-for-age-and-sex z-score (β = 0.18, 95% CI: 0.01-0.35), and increased triceps skinfold z-score (β = 0.15, 95% CI: 0.02-0.27) in children at 5-year follow-up per ln-unit increase in maternal serum perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) concentrations. We observed increased odds for child overweight/obesity (BMI ≥ 85th percentile) for each ln-unit increase in maternal serum PFOS levels (adjusted OR: 2.04, 95% CI: 1.11-3.74), with stronger odds among Norwegian children (OR: 2.96, 95% CI: 1.42-6.15). We found similar associations between maternal serum perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) concentrations and child overweight/obesity. We found indications of NMDR relationships between PFOS and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) 153 and child overweight/obesity among Swedish children.

Conclusion: We found positive associations between maternal serum PFAS concentrations and child overweight/obesity at 5-year follow-up, particularly among Norwegian participants. We observed some evidence for NMDR relationships among Swedish participants.

Keywords: Childhood obesity; Endocrine disrupting chemicals; Non-monotonic dose-response relationship; Organochlorines; Perfluoroalkyl substances; Pregnancy; Skinfolds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child, Preschool
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Exposure*
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Overweight / chemically induced
  • Overweight / epidemiology*
  • Pediatric Obesity / chemically induced
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Environmental Pollutants