Concentrations of tetanus and diphtheria antibodies in vaccinated Greenlandic children aged 7–12 years exposed to marine pollutants, a cross sectional study

By Clara Amalie Gade Timmermann, Henning Sloth Pedersen, Pál Weihe, Peter Bjerregaard, Flemming Nielsen, Carsten Heilmann, and Philippe Grandjean
Environ. Res.
August 3, 2021
DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2021.111712

Previous studies have shown immunotoxic effects of environmental chemicals, and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently identified a need for more studies on PFAS immunotoxicity in different populations. In the Arctic, populations are exposed to several environmental chemicals through marine diet, and the objective of this study was therefore to examine the association between Greenlandic children's exposure to major environmental chemicals and their concentrations of diphtheria and tetanus vaccine antibodies after vaccination. The study includes cross-sectional data from Greenlandic children aged 7–12 years examined during 2012–2015. A total of 338 children were eligible for the study, and 175 of these had available vaccination records. A parent or guardian participated in a structured interview, and a blood sample from the child was analyzed for specific antibodies against diphtheria and tetanus as well as perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and total mercury. Furthermore, for a subgroup, blood samples from pregnancy were available and analyzed for environmental contaminants. The associations between the environmental exposures and antibody concentrations and odds of having antibody concentrations below the protective level were examined in linear and logistic regression models. In crude analyses, elevated concentrations of some of the contaminants were associated with higher concentrations of diphtheria and tetanus antibodies, but the associations were reversed when adjusting for area of residence, and duration of being breastfed and including children with a known vaccination date only. Each 1 ng/mL increase in serum concentrations of perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) was associated with decreases of 78 % (95 % CI: 25–94 %) and 9 % (95 % CI: 2–16 %), respectively, in diphtheria antibody concentrations. Exposure to PCBs and all PFASs was associated with markedly increased odds of having diphtheria antibody concentrations below the protective level. For each 1 ng/mL increase in serum concentrations of PFHxS, PFOS, perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), and perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA), odds of not having protective levels of diphtheria antibodies were increased 6.44 times (95 % CI: 1.51–27.36), 1.14 times (95 % CI: 1.04–1.26), 1.96 times (95 % CI: 1.07–3.60), and 5.08 times (95 % CI: 1.32–19.51, respectively. No consistent associations were seen between maternal contaminant concentrations and vaccine antibody concentrations. In conclusion, we found that increased exposure to environmental chemicals among children in this Arctic population were associated with a decrease in post-vaccination antibody concentrations and with increased odds of not being protected against diphtheria despite appropriate vaccination. These findings emphasize the risk of environmental chemical exposures also in this Arctic population.


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