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Children's Vaccines Health Center

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Environmental Chemicals May Thwart Kids' Vaccines

Study Suggests Higher Blood Levels of PFCs May Make Immune System Less Responsive to Vaccines

PFCs and Vaccines: Study Details continued...

At the seven-year mark, 464 children were still involved in the study.

The researchers evaluated PFC levels and the levels of antibodies.

The most common PFCs found were PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonic acid) and PFOA.

The higher the level of PFCs in the mother's blood, the less the child's ability to produce antibodies later, Grandjean found.

"The most distinct effect was found in the 7-year-old children," Grandjean says. If the PFC levels doubled at age 5, it could triple the risk the vaccine didn't work at age 7, he says.

"A study like this has to be repeated," Grandjean tells WebMD. The study finds a link or association. It does not prove cause and effect.

It is not a reason to skip routine vaccines, Grandjean tells WebMD. "To avoid getting shots would put kids in an even worse situation."

PFCs & Vaccines: Implications for U.S. Children?

The new study is one of the first to examine the link in people, says Olga Naidenko, PhD, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization. She reviewed the study findings for WebMD but was not involved in the study.

Even though the study was done in the Faroe Islands, she says, "I would feel comfortable saying this study has direct implications for U.S. children's health."

As Grandjean notes in the report, some data find that U.S. children may have higher blood levels of PFCs than adults and may have higher levels than the Faroese children.

Exactly how the PFCs may interfere with antibody responses is not known. Naidenko says the PFCs could be directly toxic to immune system cells. Or she says they may disrupt the cell-to-cell communication needed to produce the antibody response.

PFCs & Vaccines: Industry Input

A spokesman for DuPont, which makes products with PFCs, could not be reached for comment.

Marie Francis, a spokeswoman for the American Chemistry Council, an industry group, tells WebMD that the organization is reviewing the study. It needs to be replicated, she says.

“It is important for consumers to know that our companies, working with the EPA, have made marked progress towards advancing new chemistries that are substitutes for the older chemicals evaluated in this study. These new fluoro chemistries have an improved environmental and toxicological profile while continuing to offer consumer benefits,” Francis says.

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