Prenatal exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) may increase the risk of cerebral palsy in boys, but replication of the findings is needed to confirm a relationship, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
PFASs are synthetic chemicals that are used broadly in food packaging, personal care products, and pan and textile coatings. PFASs can penetrate the placental barrier and are known to lead to delayed learning in animals. They also have endocrine disruptive properties and can interfere with thyroid function, which can cause mental retardation and other neurological deficits during fetal development.
Danish researchers tracked the pregnancies of 83,389 liveborn singletons and mothers, 42,737 of which were boys. Among the cohort, 156 cases of cerebral palsy were identified as tracked by the Danish National Cerebral Palsy Register. The study also included 550 randomly selected children of both sexes as the control.
Researchers tested for 16 PFASs in maternal plasma that was collected in early or mid-pregnancy. 6 PFASs were measurable in more than 90% of the samples taken. Researchers found that the risk of developing CP was higher in boys whose mother’s had elevated PFAS levels (risk ratios were 1.7 (95% confidence interval: 1.0, 2.8) for perfluorooctane sulfonate and 2.1 (95% confidence interval: 1.2, 3.6) for perfluorooctanoic acid). PFAS presence was associated with both unilateral and bilateral spastic CP subphenotypes.
No association between PFASs and CP was found in girls.
This study aims to identify an association between elevated levels of PFAS substances and cerebral palsy in newborns. Over 83,000 mother-child pairs were studied out of a Danish cohort from 1996-2002, of which 156 cases of cerebral palsy presented. Of those cases, it appears boys are more likely to develop cerebral palsy when their mothers are exposed to levels of PFAS substances.