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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 & 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.

In an emailed statement, Ross of the American Council on Science and Health says the study is "nonsensical."

"It appears to represent this group's attempt to link PFCs to some adverse health effect, " he writes. He notes that no one has found an increased risk of tetanus or diphtheria among even those with high levels of PFCs.

Ross says the study has ''no clinical significance whatsoever."

While funding for the council  does include industry monies, Ross says that "less than 3% of the budget" comes from corporations that produce PFC-containing goods.

Lowering PFC Exposure

It's somewhat unclear where the chemicals found in the children’s blood come from, Grandjean says.

For that reason, "any advice and guidance on protection against PFCs are associated with some uncertainty," he writes in a background summary of his work.

Even so, he recommends avoiding:

  • Microwave popcorn
  • Furniture and carpet treated with stain repellents
  • Shoes and clothing treated with stain repellents
  • Lubricants for skis and ski boards, unless labels say they are PFC-free

PFCs are also found in common household dust, he says. Frequent vacuuming may help.

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