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'Nonstick' chemicals pose risk: pollutants dampen immune response after childhood.

Tiny amounts of two common pollutants- chemicals known as PFOA and PFOS--in the blood may be linked to impaired immunity in children. In kids with the highest exposure, vaccinations can fail to trigger sufficient levels of protective antibodies, a new study finds.

"We were shocked, to be frank, in the magnitude of the effect," says Philippe Grandjean of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. He and colleagues report the result in the Jan. 25 Journal of the American Medical Association.

The long-lived pollutants--part of a class of chemicals called perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs--have been generated over the years by the production of synthetic substances that impart nonstick properties and water- and stain-repellency to fabrics, cookware and more. These substances include older formulations of treatments marketed under such trade names as Teflon and Scotchgard.

Grandjean's group followed 587 children in Denmark's Faroe Islands from before birth through age 7. The researchers measured PFCs in the blood of the kids' morns during pregnancy and in the kids at ages 5 and 7. Blood levels of the chemicals were in the same ballpark, if a bit lower, than typical in Americans.

The Faroese youngsters got standard childhood immunizations; their antibody responses to tetanus and diphtheria were measured as babies and before and after booster vaccinations at age 5.

Children with the highest perfluorinated pollutant exposures tended to exhibit a less robust response to the vaccines than those with the lowest levels, both before and after their booster shots.

Among children in the top third of exposure to PFOA, PFOS and the related compound PFHxS, "inadequate response to the vaccinations was particularly common," Grandjean says. The findings raise questions about whether the immune deficiencies might also point to a heightened vulnerability to allergy, asthma and, potentially, autoimmune disease.

Toxicologist Margie Peden-Adams of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas finds the new study impressive. "Those of us in the field will be excited to see it."
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Title Annotation:Environment
Author:Raloff, Janet
Publication:Science News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 10, 2012
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