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Cord blood perfluoroalkyl substances in mothers exposed to the World Trade Center disaster during pregnancy

Spratlen, Miranda J., Perera, Frederica P., Lederman, Sally Ann, Robinson, Morgan, Kannan, Kurunthachalam, Trasande, Leonardo, Herbstman, Julie
Environmental pollution 2019 v.246 pp. 482-490
blood, blood sampling, children, fetus, hospitals, humans, international trade, longitudinal studies, mothers, perfluorocarbons, perfluorooctanoic acid, pregnancy, pregnant women, regression analysis
Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) may have been released during the collapse of the World Trade Center (WTC) on 9/11. Evidence suggests PFAS can cross the placental barrier in humans and cause harm to the developing fetus; however, no studies have measured PFAS in mothers exposed to the WTC disaster during pregnancy. We measured PFAS in maternal plasma (n = 48) or cord blood (n = 231) from pregnant women in the Columbia University WTC birth cohort, enrolled between December 13, 2001 and June 26, 2002 at one of three hospitals located near the WTC site. In order to maximize sample size, we used a linear regression to transform the 48 maternal plasma samples to cord blood equivalents in our study; cord blood and transformed maternal plasma-to-cord blood samples were then analyzed together. We evaluated the association between WTC exposure and PFAS concentrations using three exposure variables: 1) living/working within two miles of WTC; 2) living within two miles of WTC regardless of work location; and 3) working but not living within two miles of WTC. Exposure was compared with those not living/working within two miles of WTC (reference group). Living/working within two miles of WTC was associated with 13% higher perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) concentrations compared with the reference group [GMR (95% CI): 1.13 (1.01, 1.27)]. The association was stronger when comparing only those who lived within two miles of WTC to the reference group [GMR (95% CI): 1.17 (1.03, 1.33)], regardless of work location. Our results provide evidence that exposure to the WTC disaster during pregnancy resulted in increases in PFAS concentrations, specifically PFOA. This work identifies a potentially vulnerable and overlooked population, children exposed to the WTC disaster in utero, and highlights the importance of future longitudinal studies in this cohort to investigate later life effects resulting from these early life exposures.