Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and fetal growth: A nation-wide register-based study on PFAS in drinking water

By Melle Säve-Söderbergh, Irina Gyllenhammar, Tessa Schillemans, Emelie Lindfeldt, Carolina Vogs, Carolina Donat-Vargas, Emma Halldin Ankarberg, Anders Glynn, Lutz Ahrens, Emilie Helte, and Agneta Åkesson
Environ Int
May 8, 2024
DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2024.108727


There is inconclusive evidence for an association between per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and fetal growth.


We conducted a nation-wide register-based cohort study to assess the associations of the estimated maternal exposure to the sum (PFAS4) of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) and perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS) with birthweight as well as risk of small- (SGA) and large-for-gestational-age (LGA).

Materials And Methods

We included all births in Sweden during 2012-2018 of mothers residing ≥ four years prior to partus in localities served by municipal drinking water where PFAS were measured in raw and drinking water. Using a one-compartment toxicokinetic model we estimated cumulative maternal blood levels of PFAS4 during pregnancy by linking residential history, municipal PFAS water concentration and year-specific background serum PFAS concentrations in Sweden. Individual birth outcomes and covariates were obtained via register linkage. Mean values and 95 % confidence intervals (CI) of β coefficients and odds ratios (OR) were estimated by linear and logistic regressions, respectively. Quantile g-computation regression was conducted to assess the impact of PFAS4 mixture.


Among the 248,804 singleton newborns included, no overall association was observed for PFAS4 and birthweight or SGA. However, an association was seen for LGA, multivariable-adjusted OR 1.08 (95% CI: 1.01-1.16) when comparing the highest PFAS4 quartile to the lowest. These associations remained for mixture effect approach where all PFAS, except for PFOA, contributed with a positive weight.


We observed an association of the sum of PFAS4 - especially PFOS - with increased risk of LGA, but not with SGA or birthweight. The limitations linked to the exposure assessment still require caution in the interpretation.

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