Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) and perfluoroundecanoic acid (PFUA), are common persistent environmental organic pollutants. Animal studies have indicated that PFAS influence inflammatory responses and lung development. However, whether prenatal or childhood PFAS exposure affects children’s lung function remains unclear. This study aimed to investigate both in utero exposure and childhood exposure to PFAS and the relationships between them and lung function development in childhood.
In total, 165 children were recruited from the Taiwan Birth Panel Study (TBPS). Cord blood plasma and children’s serum were collected when they were eight years old. PFAS levels were analysed by ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry. When these children reached eight years of age, we administered detailed questionnaires and lung function examinations.
The mean concentrations of PFOA, PFOS, PFNA and PFUA in cord blood among the 165 study children were 2.4, 6.4, 6.0, and 15.4 ng/mL, respectively. The mean concentrations in serum from eight-year-olds were 2.7, 5.9, 0.6, and 0.3 ng/mL, respectively. At eight years of age, the mean FEV1 (forced expiratory volume in 1 second), FVC (forced vital capacity), PEF (peak expiratory flow) and FEV1/FVC values were 1679 mL, 1835 mL, 3846 mL/sec and 92.0%, respectively. PFOA, PFOS, PFNA and PFUA levels in cord blood were inversely associated with FEV1, FVC and PEF values. The PFOS concentration in cord blood was the most consistently correlated with decreasing lung function before and after adjusting for confounding factors. The PFOS concentration was also significantly inversely correlated with lung function in subgroups with lower birth weight and allergic rhinitis.
Our cohort study revealed that the concentrations of PFOA, PFOS, PFNA and PFUA were higher in cord blood than in serum from eight-year-olds. Some trends were also noted between intrauterine PFOS exposure and children’s decreasing FEV1, FVC and PEF, especially in subgroups with lower birth weight and allergic rhinitis. Therefore, intrauterine PFAS exposure, especially PFOS, may play a vital role in lung development.

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