BACKGROUND: Exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances may affect offspring immune development and thereby increase risk of childhood asthma, but the underlying mechanisms and asthma phenotype affected by such exposure is unknown.
METHODS: In the Danish COPSAC2010 cohort of 738 unselected pregnant women and their children plasma PFOS and PFOA concentrations were semi-quantified by untargeted metabolomics analyses and calibrated using a targeted pipeline in mothers (gestation week 24 and 1 week postpartum) and children (age ½, 1½ and 6 years). We examined associations between pregnancy and childhood PFOS and PFOA exposure and childhood infections, asthma, allergic sensitization, atopic dermatitis, and lung function measures, and studied potential mechanisms by integrating data on systemic low-grade inflammation (hs-CRP), functional immune responses, and epigenetics.
FINDINGS: Higher maternal PFOS and PFOA exposure during pregnancy showed association with a non-atopic asthma phenotype by age 6, a protection against sensitization, and no association with atopic asthma or lung function, or atopic dermatitis. The effect was primarily driven by prenatal exposure. There was no association with infection proneness, low-grade inflammation, altered immune responses or epigenetic changes.
INTERPRETATIONS: Prenatal exposure to PFOS and PFOA, but not childhood exposure, specifically increased the risk of low prevalent non-atopic asthma, whereas there was no effect on atopic asthma, lung function, or atopic dermatitis.
FUNDING: All funding received by COPSAC are listed on www.copsac.com. The Lundbeck Foundation (Grant no R16-A1694); The Novo Nordic Foundation (Grant nos NNF20OC0061029, NNF170C0025014, NNF180C0031764); The Ministry of Health (Grant no 903516); Danish Council for Strategic Research (Grant no 0603-00280B); and The Capital Region Research Foundation have provided core support to the COPSAC research center. COPSAC acknowledges the National Facility for Exposomics (SciLifeLab, Sweden) for supporting calibration of the untargeted metabolomics PFAS data. BC and AS has received funding for this project from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (BC: grant agreement No. 946228 DEFEND; AS: grant agreement No. 864764 HEDIMED).