Exposure of pregnant women to perfluoroalkyl substances and adverse pregnancy outcomes

Poly and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) comprise a family of more than 4000 compounds (SUNDERLAND, 2019) and are part of a class of synthetic compounds widely employed in industrial applications, characterized by a hydrophobic linear carbon chain linked to a hydrophilic functional group.

PFAS are of study interest due to their extreme persistence in the environment, ability to bioaccumulate, potential for toxicity and adverse human health effects.

The chemical structure of PFAS gives them unique properties such as thermal stability and the ability to repel water and oil, making them useful in a wide variety of consumer and industrial products (fabric stain protectors, fabric waterproofing, non-stick pans, food packaging, lubricants, fire-fighting foams).

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfate (perfluorooctane sulfonate, PFOS) are two of the best known and most studied PFAS. In their ionic form, they are water-soluble and can readily migrate from the ground to the groundwater, where they can be transported over long distances. PFOS is the PFAS predominantly found in aquatic species worldwide.

Several studies have found significant associations between PFAS exposure and adverse immunological outcomes in children. Dyslipidemia is the strongest metabolic outcome associated with PFAS exposure (SUNDERLAND, 2019).

According to previous studies, exposure to certain PFAS is associated with cancer, thyroid disorders, immune suppression, low birth weight and decreased fertility. Children are especially at risk for health effects because their developing bodies are more vulnerable to toxic chemicals.