High trans-placental transfer of perfluoroalkyl substances alternatives in the matched maternal-cord blood serum: Evidence from a birth cohort study

By Dan Cai, Qing-Qing Li, Chu Chu, Shi-Zhong Wang, Ye-Tao Tang, Allison A. Appleton, Rong-Liang Qiu, Bo-Yi Yang, Li-Wen Hu, Guang-Hui Dong, and Xiao-Wen Zeng
Sci. of the Tot. Env.
December 9, 2019
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.135885


Recent studies suggest that perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and PFAS alternatives can cross the placental barrier. However, little is known on the differential patterns of trans-placental transfer (TPT) among conventional PFAS and PFAS alternatives in epidemiological study.


We aimed to characterize comprehensive TPT patterns in conventional PFAS and PFAS alternatives using matched maternal-cord blood serum from a birth cohort.


A total of 424 mother-fetus pairs were recruited from the Maoming Birth Cohort during 2015–2018. We detected 20 PFAS in cord and maternal serum using an ultraperformance liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS). TPT of PFAS was calculated via cord to maternal serum concentration ratios.


Both of PFOS alternatives (chlorinated polyfluorinated ether sulfonates, Cl-PFESAs) and PFOA short-chain alternative (perfluorobutanoic acid, PFBA) were widely detected in the cord and maternal serum. In cord serum, the predominant PFAS was PFOS (1.93 ng/mL), followed by PFBA (1.45 ng/mL), PFOA (0.75 ng/mL) and 6:2 Cl-PFESA (0.32 ng/mL). We found that the PFAS alternatives had higher TPT than PFOS and PFOA, such as PFBA vs. PFOA (median: 1.41 vs. 0.73, P < 0.001) and 8:2 Cl-PFESA vs. PFOS (median: 0.98 vs. 0.42, P < 0.001). Moreover, the TPT of 8:2 Cl-PFESA was higher than the precursor, linear and isomeric PFOS, respectively (P < 0.001). Furthermore, we found a U-shaped pattern for TPT in perfluorocarboxylic acid compounds (PFCAs) across different length of carbon chain.


Our findings suggest that PFAS alternatives may be more easily across the placenta than conventional PFAS. Given the widespread usage of PFAS alternatives, our results indicate that more research is needed to assess the potential health risks of prenatal exposure to PFAS alternatives in children.

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