Association between gestational PFAS exposure and Children's adiposity in a diverse population

Environ Res. 2022 Jan:203:111820. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2021.111820. Epub 2021 Jul 31.


Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are widely distributed suspected obesogens that cross the placenta. However, few data are available to assess potential fetal effects of PFAS exposure on children's adiposity in diverse populations. To address the data gap, we estimated associations between gestational PFAS concentrations and childhood adiposity in a diverse mother-child cohort. We considered 6 PFAS in first trimester blood plasma, measured using ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry, collected from non-smoking women with low-risk singleton pregnancies (n = 803). Body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), fat mass, fat-free mass, and % body fat were ascertained in 4-8 year old children as measures of adiposity. We estimated associations of individual gestational PFAS with children's adiposity and overweight/obesity, adjusted for confounders. There were more non-Hispanic Black (31.7 %) and Hispanic (42.6 %) children with overweight/obesity, than non-Hispanic white (18.2 %) and Asian/Pacific Islander (16.4 %) children (p < 0.0001). Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS; 5.3 ng/mL) and perfluorooctanoic acid (2.0 ng/mL) had the highest median concentrations in maternal blood. Among women without obesity (n = 667), greater perfluoroundecanoic acid (PFUnDA) was associated with their children having higher WC z-score (β = 0.08, 95%CI: 0.01, 0.14; p = 0.02), fat mass (β = 0.55 kg, 95%CI: 0.21, 0.90; p = 0.002), and % body fat (β = 0.01 %; 95%CI: 0.003, 0.01; p = 0.004), although the association of PFUnDA with fat mass attenuated at the highest concentrations. Among women without obesity, the associations of PFAS and their children's adiposity varied significantly by self-reported race-ethnicity, although the direction of the associations was inconsistent. In contrast, among the children of women with obesity, greater, PFOS, perfluorononanoic acid, and perfluorodecanoic acid concentrations were associated with less adiposity (n = 136). Our results suggest that specific PFAS may be developmental obesogens, and that maternal race-ethnicity may be an important modifier of the associations among women without obesity.

Keywords: Adiposity; Children's health; Health disparities; Obesity; Obesogen; Perfluoroalkyl substances.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity
  • Alkanesulfonic Acids*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Pollutants* / toxicity
  • Female
  • Fluorocarbons* / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy


  • Alkanesulfonic Acids
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Fluorocarbons