The association between perfluoroalkyl substances and lipid profile in exposed pregnant women in the Veneto region, Italy.

By Teresa Dalla Zuanna, David A Savitz, Giulia Barbieri, Gisella Pitter, Maryam Zare Jeddi, Francesca Daprà, Aline S C Fabricio, Francesca Russo, Tony Fletcher, and Cristina Canova
Ecotoxicol Environ Saf
December 29, 2020
DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2020.111805


Residents of a large area of North-Eastern Italy were exposed for decades to high concentrations of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) via drinking water. Serum PFAS levels have been consistently associated with elevated serum lipids, but few studies have been conducted among pregnant women, and none has stratified analyses by trimester of gestation. Elevated serum lipid levels during pregnancy can have both immediate and long-lasting effects on pregnant women and the developing fetus. We evaluated the association between perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and perfluoro-hexanesulfonate (PFHxS) levels in relation to lipid profiles in highly-exposed pregnant women.


A cross-sectional analysis was conducted in 319 pregnant women (age 14-48 years) enrolled in the Regional health surveillance program. Non-fasting blood samples were obtained in any trimester of pregnancy and analyzed for PFOA, PFOS and PFHxS, total cholesterol (TC), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C). Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) was calculated. The associations between ln-transformed PFAS (and categorized into quartiles) and lipids were assessed using generalized additive models. Analyses were adjusted for potential confounders and stratified according to pregnancy trimester.


The geometric means of PFOA, PFOS and PFHxS were 14.78 ng/mL, 2.67 ng/mL and 1.89 ng/mL, respectively. The plasma levels of TC, HDL-C and LDL-C increased steadily throughout the trimesters. In the 1st trimester, PFOS was positively associated with TC and PFHxS with HDL-C. In the 3rd trimester, instead, an inverse relationship was seen between PFOA and PFHxS and both TC and LDL-C.


Results suggest the associations between PFAS concentrations and lipid profiles in pregnant women might differ by trimesters of pregnancy. In the first trimester, patterns are similar to those of non-pregnant women, while they differ late in pregnancy. Different independent behavior of PFAS and lipid levels throughout the pregnancy might explain our observations. These findings support the ubiquitous exposure to PFAS and possible influence on lipid metabolisms during pregnancy and suggest a careful evaluation of the timing of PFAS measurement, when examining effects of PFAS during pregnancy on gestational outcomes related to serum lipids amounts.

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