Prenatal Exposure to Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances and Child Growth Trajectories in the First Two Years

By Yu Gao, Jiajun Luo, Yan Zhang, Chengyu Pan, Yunjie Ren, Jun Zhang, Ying Tian
March 22, 2022
DOI: 10.1289/EHP9875


Pregnant women are ubiquitously exposed to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Prenatal exposure to PFAS has been associated with lower birth weight but also with excess adiposity and higher weight in childhood. These mixed findings warrant investigation of the relationship between PFAS and dynamic offspring growth.


To investigate the association between prenatal PFAS exposure and early-life growth trajectories during the first 2 y.


Pregnant women (n=3,426n=3,426) were recruited from 2013 to 2016 from the Shanghai Birth Cohort (SBC) Study, and their children were followed up from birth to 2 y of age. Seven PFAS congeners were quantified in pregnant women’s serum during the first trimester. Our study population was restricted to 1,350 children who had five repeated measurements for at least one anthropometric measure. Four anthropometric measures, including weight, length/height, weight-for-length, and head circumference, were evaluated at birth, 42 d, 6 months, 12 months, and 24 months, and standardized into z-scores using the World Health Organization reference. Trajectories of each measure were classified into five groups using group-based trajectory modeling. Multinomial logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) for trajectory groups according to log2log2-transformed PFAS concentrations, and the moderate-stable group was selected as the reference group for all measures.


Higher prenatal exposure to PFAS was associated with elevated odds for the low-rising weight-for-age z-score (WAZ) trajectory, and the high-rising length-for-age z-score (LAZ) trajectory. Meanwhile, PFAS levels were associated with decreased odds for the low-rising and high-rising weight-for-length z-score (WLZ) trajectories. In addition, the associations of PFAS with growth trajectory groups differed by sex, where males had greater odds for the low-rising and low-stable WAZ trajectories and for the high-stable and low-rising WLZ trajectories. In contrast, inverse associations were consistently observed with trajectories of the high-stable, low-stable, and low-rising head-circumference-for-age z-score (HCZ) in relation to most individual PFAS congeners. PFAS mixtures analysis further confirmed the above findings.


Trajectory analysis approach provided insight into the complex associations between PFAS exposure and offspring growth. Future studies are warranted to confirm the present findings with trajectory modeling strategies and understand the clinical significance of these trajectory groups.


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