Perfluoroalkyl substances are associated with elevated blood pressure and hypertension in highly exposed young adults

By Gisella Pitter, Maryam Zare Jeddi, Giulia Barbieri, Massimo Gion, Aline S C Fabricio, Francesca Daprà, Francesca Russo, Tony Fletcher, and Cristina Canova
Environ Health
September 29, 2020
DOI: 10.1186/s12940-020-00656-0


Residents in a large area of North-Eastern Italy were exposed to perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) via drinking water. Studies on the association between PFAS and blood pressure levels are limited, and results are inconsistent. Using cross-sectional data from the Regional health surveillance program, we aimed to quantify the associations between PFAS serum concentrations and blood pressure and hypertension prevalence.


The study comprised 16,224 individuals aged 20-39 years. Pregnant women (n = 327), or individuals with missing information on the selected covariates (n = 111) were excluded, leaving 15,786 subjects for the analyses. Hypertension was defined as any self-reported diagnosis, use of antihypertensive drugs, or elevated systolic blood pressure (SBP ≥ 140 mmHg)/diastolic blood pressure (DBP ≥ 90 mmHg). Generalized additive models were used to investigate the relation between perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA)) natural log (ln) transformed and by decile, and SBP, DBP, hypertension, adjusted for potential confounders.


Both SBP and DBP increased significantly with an increase in the ln-transformed serum PFAS concentrations in a monotonic way. The predicted increase in SBP and DBP were 1.54 mmHg (95%CI 0.61-2.47), 1.60 mmHg (95%CI 0.92-2.27) from lowest to highest decile of PFOA. The associations were stronger for SBP in men and for DBP in women. One unit increase in each In-transformed PFAS was positively associated with an increased odd of hypertension in men: PFOA OR = 1.06 (1.01-1.11), PFOS OR = 1.13 (1.03-1.23), PFHxS OR = 1.08 (1.02-1.15), PFNA OR = 1.20 (1.02-1.40).


Our findings suggest that serum PFAS concentrations were associated with increased systolic and diastolic blood pressure in a large highly exposed young adult population. Although the magnitude of the observed effect was relatively small, if confirmed it would be of public health relevance since even small increases in blood pressure levels at the population level may be associated to a raised risk of adverse outcomes such as cardiovascular disease and target organ damage.

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