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Mixture effects of prenatal exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and polybrominated diphenyl ethers on maternal and newborn telomere length



Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are endocrine disrupting chemicals with widespread exposures across the U.S. given their abundance in consumer products. PFAS and PBDEs are associated with reproductive toxicity and adverse health outcomes, including certain cancers. PFAS and PBDEs may affect health through alternations in telomere length. In this study, we examined joint associations between prenatal exposure to PFAS, PBDEs, and maternal and newborn telomere length using mixture analyses, to characterize effects of cumulative environmental chemical exposures.


Study participants were enrolled in the Chemicals in Our Bodies (CIOB) study, a demographically diverse cohort of pregnant people and children in San Francisco, CA. Seven PFAS (ng/mL) and four PBDEs (ng/g lipid) were measured in second trimester maternal serum samples. Telomere length (T/S ratio) was measured in delivery cord blood of 292 newborns and 110 second trimester maternal whole blood samples. Quantile g-computation was used to assess the joint associations between groups of PFAS and PBDEs and newborn and maternal telomere length. Groups considered were: (1) all PFAS and PBDEs combined, (2) PFAS, and (3) PBDEs. Maternal and newborn telomere length were modeled as separate outcomes.


T/S ratios in newborn cord and maternal whole blood were moderately correlated (Spearman ρ = 0.31). In mixtures analyses, a simultaneous one quartile increase in all PFAS and PBDEs was associated with a small increase in newborn (mean change per quartile increase = 0.03, 95% confidence interval [CI] = -0.03, 0.08) and maternal telomere length (mean change per quartile increase = 0.03 (95% CI = -0.03, 0.09). When restricted to maternal-fetal paired samples (N = 76), increasing all PFAS and PBDEs combined was associated with a strong, positive increase in newborn telomere length (mean change per quartile increase = 0.16, 95% CI = 0.03, 0.28). These associations were primarily driven by PFAS (mean change per quartile increase = 0.11 [95% CI = 0.01, 0.22]). No associations were observed with maternal telomere length among paired samples.


Our findings suggest that PFAS and PBDEs may be positively associated with newborn telomere length.

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