Identifying Risk Factors for Levels of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in the Placenta in a High-Risk Pregnancy Cohort in North Carolina

Environ Sci Technol. 2020 Jul 7;54(13):8158-8166. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.9b07102. Epub 2020 Jun 12.


Prenatal exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a ubiquitous class of chemicals, is associated with adverse outcomes such as pre-eclampsia, low infant birth weight, and later-life adiposity. The objectives of this study were to examine PFAS levels in the placenta and identify sociodemographic risk factors in a high-risk pregnancy cohort (n = 122) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Of concern, PFOS, PFHxS, PFHpS, and PFUnA were detected above the reporting limit in 99, 75, 55, and 49% of placentas, respectively. Maternal race/ethnicity was associated with significant differences in PFUnA levels. While the data from this high-risk cohort did not provide evidence for an association with hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, fetal growth, or gestational age, the prevalence of detectable PFAS in the placenta suggests a need to biomonitor for exposure to PFAS during pregnancy. Future research should investigate factors underlying the differences in PFAS levels in association with a mother's race/ethnicity, as well as potential effects on pregnancy and child health.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alkanesulfonic Acids*
  • Child
  • Environmental Pollutants*
  • Female
  • Fluorocarbons* / analysis
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • North Carolina
  • Placenta / chemistry
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, High-Risk
  • Risk Factors


  • Alkanesulfonic Acids
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Fluorocarbons