Prenatal Liver Pollutants: Perfluoroalkyl Substances

It is very difficult to try to understand potential toxic substances in our environments. Some of the reasons for this are that there are always numerous simultaneous exposures and harm from substances can accrue over long periods. Once a substance is identified, it can take a long time to develop convincing evidence and even longer time frames to try to enact policy changes.

Despite these challenges, fortunately researchers continue to try to tease out these dangerous agents. A recent study (N Stratakis et al. Hepatology 2020; 72: 1758-1770. Free Full text: Prenatal Exposure to Perfluoroalkyl Substances Associated With Increased Susceptibility to Liver Injury in Children)

Background/Methods: Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are widespread and persistent pollutants that have been shown to have hepatotoxic effects in animal models. However, human evidence is scarce. PFAS chemicals have a myriad industrial/household applications which include nonstick cookware and products that confer resistance to stains. According to the editorial (MC Cave, pg 1518-21), some refer to PFAS as “forever chemicals” due to their decades-long half-lives.

The study authors used data from 1105 mothers and their children (median age 8.2 years) from the European Human Early-Life Exposome cohort. Key findings:

  • High prenatal exposure to PFAS resulted in children who were at higher risk of liver injury (odds ratio, 1.56; 95% confidence interval, 1.21–1.92)
  • PFAS exposure is associated with alterations in key amino acids and lipid pathways characterizing liver injury risk.

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