Susceptibility to COVID-19 after High Exposure to Perfluoroalkyl Substances from Contaminated Drinking Water: An Ecological Study from Ronneby, Sweden

By Christel Nielsen and Anna Jöud
Int J Environ Res Public Health
November 2, 2021
DOI: 10.3390/ijerph182010702

There is concern that immunotoxic environmental contaminants, particularly perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), may play a role in the clinical course of COVID-19 and epidemiologic studies are needed to answer if high-exposed populations are especially vulnerable in light of the ongoing pandemic. The objective was, therefore, to determine if exposure to highly PFAS-contaminated drinking water was associated with an increased incidence of COVID-19 in Ronneby, Sweden, during the first year of the pandemic. We conducted an ecological study determining the sex- and age-standardized incidence ratio (SIR) in the adult population relative to a neighboring reference town with similar demographic characteristics but with only background levels of exposure. In Sweden, COVID-19 is subject to mandatory reporting, and we retrieved aggregated data on all verified cases until 3 March 2021 from the Public Health Agency of Sweden. The SIR in Ronneby was estimated at 1.19 (95% CI: 1.12; 1.27). The results suggest a potential link between high PFAS exposure and susceptibility to COVID-19 that warrants further research to clarify causality.

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