Impact of PFAS on unborn children, new study reveals

A recently published study in Lancet Planetary Health conducted by researchers from Aberdeen and Örebro Universities has unveiled concerning findings about the potential health risks associated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), commonly known as "forever chemicals." While most studies have focused on the effects of PFAS exposure in adults, this study provides direct evidence of in utero effects on specific key hepatic products, indicating that perfluoroalkyl exposure manifests in the human fetus as early as the first trimester of gestation.    

PFAS are extensively used in consumer goods like nonstick cookware and food packaging since the 1950s, consequently, they have become widespread in water, soil, food, and the human body. The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified key PFAS classes as carcinogenic in December 2023, particularly highlighting the risk through diet.    

The study focused on the metabolic impact of PFAS on 78 human fetuses, revealing that the chemicals were present in the fetal livers, indicating exposure begins in the womb. The researchers found altered metabolic and liver function, specifically in bile acid and lipid metabolism, which could potentially lead to increased risks of metabolic diseases in adulthood. The authors emphasized that changes in fetal development can have lasting consequences for future health, drawing parallels to metabolic diseases like diabetes and fatty liver.    

The study also highlighted the global implications of PFAS exposure. Countries with lax regulations, such as China, have witnessed higher levels of childhood obesity and diabetes compared to regions with more stringent controls, like the EU. The researchers hypothesized that the surge in childhood metabolic diseases could be linked to increased exposure to PFAS and other environmental chemicals.    

These findings contribute to the growing body of evidence linking PFAS to potential health risks and emphasize the need for further examination of the lasting impact of PFAS exposure on individuals' health trajectories.  
The study adds to the urgency of addressing the presence and regulation of these "forever chemicals" to safeguard human health and well-being, particularly during vulnerable stages of development.      



The Lancet