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Study examines effect of chemical on childhood immunizations.

Article / Review by on January 24, 2012 – 8:24 pmNo Comments

PFCs may hinder vaccine response.
PFCs, Chemicals Widespread in Environment, Linked to Lowered Immune Response to Childhood Vaccinations.

Boston, MA — A new study finds that perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), widely used in manufactured products such as non-stick cookware, waterproof clothing, and fast-food packaging, were associated with lowered immune response to vaccinations in children. It is the first study to document how PFCs, which can be transferred to children prenatally (via the mother) and postnatally from exposure in the environment, can adversely affect vaccine response.

PFCs, Chemicals Widespread in Environment, Linked to Lowered Immune Response to Childhood VaccinationsStudy examines effect of chemical on childhood immunizations./ photo: kHARDER/photocase.com

Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), widely used in manufactured products such as non-stick cookware, waterproof clothing, and fast-food packaging, were associated with lowered immune response to vaccinations in children in research led by Philippe Grandjean of the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).

The study appears in the Jan. 25 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

“Routine childhood immunizations are a mainstay of modern disease prevention. The negative impact on childhood vaccinations from PFCs should be viewed as a potential threat to public health,” said Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at HSPH and the report’s lead author.

PFCs have thousands of industrial and manufacturing uses. Most Americans have the chemical compounds in their bodies. Prior studies found that PFC concentrations in mice similar to those found in people suppressed immune response, but the adverse effects on people had been poorly documented.

The researchers analyzed data on children recruited at birth at National Hospital in Torshavn, Faroe Islands, 1999-2001. A total of 587 participated in follow-up examinations. Children were tested for immune response to tetanus and diphtheria vaccinations at ages 5 and 7 years. PFCs were measured in maternal pregnancy serum and in the serum of children at age 5 to determine prenatal and postnatal exposure.

The results showed that PFC exposure was associated with lower antibody responses to immunizations and an increased risk of antibody levels in children lower than those needed to provide long-term protection. (Antibody concentrations in serum are a good indicator of overall immune functions in children.) A twofold greater concentration of three major PFCs was associated with a 49 percent lower level of serum antibodies in children at age 7.

“We were surprised by the steep negative associations, which suggest that PFCs may be more toxic to the immune system than current dioxin exposures,” said Grandjean.

PFC exposure was associated with lower antibody responses to immunizations in a study led by Philippe Grandjean of HSPH./ File photo by Justin Ide/Harvard Staff PhotographerFC exposure was associated with lower antibody responses to immunizations in a study led by Philippe Grandjean of HSPH./ File photo by Justin Ide/Harvard Staff Photographer

The PFC concentrations were similar to or slightly below those reported in U.S. women, and most serum PFC levels in Faroese children at age 5 were lower than those measured in U.S. children aged 3 to 5 in 2001-2002.

The study was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Danish Council for Strategic Research, and the Danish Environmental Protection Agency.

By Todd Datz
Harvard School of Public Health Communications

 

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About Harvard Medical School (HMS)

Driving Change. Building Momentum. Making History. 

“Since 1872, Harvard Medical School has been the incubator of bold ideas—a place where extraordinary people advance education, science and health care with unrelenting passion.

Whether training tomorrow’s doctors and scientists, decoding the fundamental nature of life, advancing patient care or improving health delivery systems around the world, we are never at rest. Allied with some of the world’s best hospitals, research institutes and a University synonymous with excellence, the School’s mission remains as ambitious as it is honorable: to alleviate human suffering caused by disease.”

More at Harvard Medical School & Harvard Medical School. Generations of Leaders.

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About Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH)

Harvard School of Public Health is dedicated to advancing the public’s health through learning, discovery and communication. More than 400 faculty members are engaged in teaching and training the 1,000-plus student body in a broad spectrum of disciplines crucial to the health and well being of individuals and populations around the world. Programs and projects range from the molecular biology of AIDS vaccines to the epidemiology of cancer; from risk analysis to violence prevention; from maternal and children’s health to quality of care measurement; from health care management to international health and human rights.

More at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) & Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). History.

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About Harvard University.

Established in 1636, Harvard is the oldest institution of higher education in the United States. The University, which is based in Cambridge and Boston, Massachusetts, has an enrollment of over 20,000 degree candidates, including undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Harvard has more than 360,000 alumni around the world.

Harvard University is devoted to excellence in teaching, learning, and research, and to developing leaders in many disciplines who make a difference globally. Harvard faculty are engaged with teaching and research to push the boundaries of human knowledge. For students who are excited to investigate the biggest issues of the 21st century, Harvard offers an unparalleled student experience and a generous financial aid program, with over $160 million awarded to more than 60% of our undergraduate students. The University has twelve degree-granting Schools in addition to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, offering a truly global education.

‘Universities nurture the hopes of the world: in solving challenges that cross borders; in unlocking and harnessing new knowledge; in building cultural and political understanding; and in modeling environments that promote dialogue and debate… The ideal and breadth of liberal education that embraces the humanities and arts as well as the social and natural sciences is at the core of Harvard’s philosophy. ’/ Drew Gilpin Faust

More About Harvard University & About Harvard University. Information.

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*  The above story is adapted from materials provided by Harvard University

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