March 23, 2018

Study Finds PFCs in Food Products Compromise Immune Systems

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that exposure to PFCs (perfluorinated compounds) may reduce the effectiveness of childhood vaccines. The study was co-sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Danish government.

PFCs are found in food packaging such as fast-food containers and microwave popcorn bags, paper plates, and non-stick cookware. The chemical is used to repel water, stains, and grease. In fact, the Washington Toxics Coalition states that many food packaging products contain PFCs, including pizza boxes. These chemicals don’t break down, are a likely human carcinogen, and are pervasive in the environment and in our bodies.

Children with high levels of PFCs in their bodies had reduced levels of antibodies in their blood. In fact, doubling a child’s PFC exposure cut their immune response by 50%.

The study measured prenatal exposure, then measured it again when the children were five years old, four weeks after receiving booster shots, and at the age of 7. If the child had high prenatal exposure to PFC, their response to vaccinations was the lowest. At age 5, 26% of children in the study had antibody concentrations too low to protect them from tetanus and 37% had antibody concentrations too low to protect them from diphtheria. At age 7, these children were given additional booster shots to increase their immune response.

The study’s leader, Dr. Philippe Grandjean of the Harvard School of Public Health said, “When the PFC concentration increases in the body, the immune system gets more sluggish and is less capable of maintaining a defense mechanism against microorganisms.” The EPA is currently considering regulating PFCs. Grandjean also said that he was “surprised by the steep negative associations, which suggest that PFCs may be more toxic to the immune system than current dioxin exposures.

The study was conducted in Denmark where seafood consumption is high. Seafood can be heavily contaminated with PFCs. However, the study results are relevant to children in America, since PFC levels here are even higher. In fact, 98% of the American public has PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid, a member of the PFC family) chemicals in their bodies. And the PFC levels in the children studied “were lower than those measured in US children aged 3 to 5 years in 2001-2002,” according to the report.


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