Association between maternal per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance exposure and newborn telomere length: Effect modification by birth seasons

By Dongxiang Pan, Yantao Shao, Yanye Song, Dongping Huang, Shun Liu, Xiaoyun Zeng, Jun Liang, Hui Juan Jennifer Tan, and Xiaoqiang Qiu
Environ Int
February 28, 2022
DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2022.107125


Telomere length (TL) is an important biomarker of biological aging and disease that may be affected by prenatal exposure to environmental pollutants. Birth seasons have been linked to reproductive and immune-related diseases. Prenatal exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) has been associated with adverse birth outcomes, but the effects of PFAS and birth seasons on newborn TL are poorly understood.


To explore the individual and combined effects of maternal PFAS exposure on newborn TL, with exploration of the interaction between PFAS and birth seasons on newborn TL.


Between June 2015 and May 2018, a total of 499 mother-newborn pairs were recruited for a birth cohort study in Guangxi, China. Maternal blood samples were collected during pregnancy. Nine PFASs were measured by ultraperformance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Newborn TL was assessed using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. Modeling newborn TL as the outcome, multivariable linear regressions were performed for individual PFAS exposures, and Bayesian Kernel Machine Regressions were performed for PFAS mixtures. Furthermore, interaction analyses were conducted to evaluate the effect modification by birth seasons in these relationships.


For both single and multipollutant models, PFASs exposure were inversely associated with newborn TL, although none of the relationships were significant. The mixture of PFASs showed a potential positive trend of combined effect on newborn TL but non-statistically significant. Each ln-transformed unit concentration increase in PFOA was related to a 20.41% (95% CI: -30.44%, -8.93%) shorter TL in spring-born infants but not in those born in other birth seasons. Mothers in the middle and highest tertiles of PFOA exposure had 11.69% and 10.71% shorter TLs in spring-born infants, respectively.


Maternal PFAS exposure showed little association with newborn TL. The results suggested potential effect modification by birth season on the association between PFOA exposure and newborn TL.

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