Association between prenatal exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances and asthma in 5-year-old children in the Odense Child Cohort

Environ Health. 2019 Nov 15;18(1):97. doi: 10.1186/s12940-019-0541-z.


Background: Asthma is the most common non-communicable disease in children. Prenatal exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), a group of persistent environmental chemicals with endocrine disrupting abilities, has been associated with immunomodulation and may contribute to the aetiology of asthma. We investigated the associations between prenatal exposure to five PFASs and asthma in 5-year-old children.

Methods: We studied 981 mother-child pairs within the Odense Child Cohort (OCC), Denmark. We measured perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) and perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA) in maternal serum donated in early pregnancy. A standardized questionnaire based on the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) was used to assess wheeze, self-reported asthma and doctor-diagnosed asthma among children at age 5 years. Associations were examined using logistic regression analyses adjusting for parity, maternal educational level, maternal pre-pregnancy BMI, asthma predisposition and child sex.

Results: Among the 5-year-old children 18.6% reported wheeze and 7.1% reported asthma. We found no association between prenatal exposure to PFAS and doctor-diagnosed asthma or wheeze. Prenatal PFAS exposure was associated with self-reported asthma, although only significant for PFNA (OR = 1.84, 95% CI 1.03,3.23).

Conclusion: Our findings support the suggested immunomodulatory effects of PFASs, however, additional studies are warranted. In order to verify our findings, it is important to re-examine the children with postnatal measurements of serum PFAS concentrations and additional clinical diagnostic testing at an older age where an asthma diagnosis is more valid.

Keywords: Asthma; Children; PFAS; Perfluoroalkyl substances; Prenatal exposure; Preschool; The Odense Child Cohort.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkanesulfonic Acids / adverse effects*
  • Asthma / chemically induced
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Endocrine Disruptors / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Fluorocarbons / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence


  • Alkanesulfonic Acids
  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Fluorocarbons