Maternal levels of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) during pregnancy and childhood allergy and asthma related outcomes and infections in the Norwegian Mother and Child (MoBa) cohort

Environ Int. 2019 Mar:124:462-472. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2018.12.041. Epub 2019 Jan 23.


Introduction: Prenatal exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) has been inconsistently associated with asthma and allergic diseases and increased number of infections in early childhood. We examined the association of PFASs measured in pregnancy with childhood asthma, allergies and common infectious diseases in a prospective pregnancy cohort followed to age 7 years.

Material and methods: Six PFASs (out of 19 measured) with at least 80% of measurements above the limit of quantification (LOQ) in maternal plasma during pregnancy in two subcohorts of the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) were analyzed in relation to health outcomes: perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), acid (PFOA), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perfluoroundecanoic acid (PFUnDA), and perfluoroheptane sulfonic acid (PFHpS). Follow-up questionnaires were completed at 3 years by 1270 women and at 7 years by 972 women among the 1943 with pregnancy questionnaire and PFAS measures. Health outcomes included parent reports of child's symptoms or doctor diagnosed asthma and allergic conditions at age 7 years and parent-reported frequency of various infections at 3 and 7 years of age. Logistic and Poisson regression were used. The false discovery rate was controlled at 5%. Sensitivity analyses on gender were performed.

Results: Among the allergy and asthma outcomes, a statistically significant inverse association was seen between PFUnDA concentrations and ever having atopic eczema in girls. PFUnDA also tended to be inversely associated with both wheeze and asthma. For infections from 0 to 3 and 6 to 7 years, 11 significant positive associations were seen between PFASs and airways infections (bronchitis/pneumonia, throat infection, pseudocroup), ear infection and gastric flu/diarrhea; whereas 6 inverse associations were seen for pseudocroup, ear infections and urinary tract infections. The majority of the findings with respect to infectious diseases were found in girls only.

Discussion: With the exception of an inverse association between PFUnDA and eczema, and a tendency of a similar association for wheeze and asthma, maternal PFAS levels during pregnancy showed little association with asthma or allergy related outcomes. Findings from the present study suggest immunosuppressive effects of PFASs on airways infections, such as bronchitis/pneumonia and throat infections, as well as diarrhea/gastric flu. Our results indicate a possible role of gender in the PFAS-health outcome associations.

Keywords: Allergy; Asthma; Childhood; Immunosuppression; MoBa; Perfluoroalkyl substances; Prenatal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Fluorocarbons / blood
  • Fluorocarbons / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / epidemiology
  • Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Male
  • Mothers*
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Young Adult


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Fluorocarbons