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Children’s protection from vaccines weakened by halogenated chemical exposure

March 12, 2012

In a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Philippe Grandjean, et al. found that perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) may reduce children’s protection from vaccinations. The study, Serum Vaccine Antibody Concentrations in Children Exposed to Perfluorinated Compounds found that higher PFC levels were associated with lowered antibody levels. PFCs are pervasive compounds found in Teflon coatings, furniture, stain-resistant carpeting, rain gear, and microwave popcorn bags. They migrate out and end up in household dust, water and food. Young children are especially at risk due to their developing bodies and high levels of exposure to dust.

All the children in the study had received a diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine. Scientists measured antibody levels of these children at ages 5 and 7 and found that those with a twofold increase in PFC levels had half the overall antibodies compared to those with lower levels of PFCs. Similarly, prenatal exposure of a twofold greater concentration of PFCs was associated with a 39% drop in diphtheria antibody levels. Children with a doubled increase of PFCs at the age of 5 were also 2 to 4 times more likely to fall below the clinically protective level for tetanus and diphtheria antibodies at 7 years of age. The negative correlation remains even after adjusting for possible confounders.

The PFC levels found in the study population (587 Faroe Islands children at ages 5 and 7 years) are similar to those in American children. This suggests that a weakening of immune system response and vaccine effectiveness are of concern in many other countries where exposure to PFCs occurs.

Previously, Grandjean and colleagues had found a weaker correlation with exposure to chlorinated chemicals in children in their paper: Reduced Antibody Responses to Vaccinations in Children Exposed to Polychlorinated Biphenyls.

Read an article about the PFC study in Time Magazine.

Full reference:

Grandjean, P., Andersen, E. W., Budtz-Jørgensen, E., Nielsen, F., Mølbak, K., Weihe, P., & Heilmann, C. (2012). Serum vaccine antibody concentrations in children exposed to perfluorinated compounds. JAMA : The journal of the American Medical Association, 307(4), 391–7. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.2034