Association between serum per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances concentrations and common cold among children and adolescents in the United States

By Yu Zhang, Vicente Mustieles, Yang Sun, Youssef Oulhote, Yixin Wang, and Carmen Messerlian
Environ. Int.
April 19, 2022
DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2022.107239

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) exert immunosuppressive effects in experimental animals. Few epidemiologic studies investigated PFAS exposure and immune-related clinical outcomes such as common cold, especially during childhood when the immune system is developing.

This study used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and included 517 children 3 to 11 years (2013-2014 cycle) and 2732 adolescents 12 to 19 years (2003-2016 cycles). Serum concentrations of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) and perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS) were quantified. Common cold was self-reported by the participant or parent as having a head cold or chest cold in the last month. Multivariable logistic regression models were applied to examine the covariate-adjusted odds ratios (ORs) between individual PFAS concentrations and common cold incidence in the past month. The joint effect of PFAS mixtures was evaluated using Probit Bayesian Kernel Machine Regression (BKMR).

A doubling of serum PFHxS concentration was associated with a 31% higher odds (OR=1.31, 95% CI: 1.06, 1.62) of common cold among children. Serum PFNA (OR=1.36, 95% CI: 0.93, 1.98) and PFOA (OR=1.32, 95% CI: 0.67, 2.62) concentrations were also related to common cold among children, as were serum PFOS concentrations among adolescents (OR=1.13, 95% CI: 0.96, 1.32). ORs were higher in male than female children and adolescents. BKMR showed a clear increasing trend of common cold estimates across quantiles of the total PFAS mixture concentration among children, while no obvious pattern emerged in adolescents.

Among children in the United States, serum concentrations of PFAS mixtures, especially PFHxS and PFNA, were associated with higher odds of common cold. Among adolescents, PFOS was associated with increased common cold in the last month. This study contributes to the existing evidence supporting the immunotoxicity of PFAS in childhood and adolescence.


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