Study: Common Household Chemicals May be Harmful to Children’s Immunity

Study: Common Household Chemicals May be Harmful to Children's ImmunityA new study, conducted by a team of researchers from the United States and Denmark, suggests that exposure to high levels of a group of chemicals commonly found in households may damage children’s immune systems, HealthDay reports.

The study showed that more exposure to perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in the early stages of development was linked with lower immune response to typical immunizations.

“We found that PFC pollution is apparently making the immune system more sluggish, so that it doesn’t react as vigorously to vaccines as it should,” said study author Dr. Philippe Grandjean, an adjunct professor of environmental health at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

The results were published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PFCs are used regularly in common household items, including nonstick cookware, carpets, upholstery and certain food packages, such as microwave popcorn bags. Previous studies have shown that the chemicals have made their way into most people’s blood streams.

Other studies have shown that PFC exposure has been linked to early menopause and higher levels of cholesterol, but Grandjean stated this was the first study to find that higher levels of PFCs in the blood could mean an impaired immune system.

“What we don’t know is whether this association represents a general immune system dysfunction, and if it has implications in regards to infections, allergies or even cancer,” Grandjean said. “We are looking at something that appears to be just the tip of the iceberg, and we’d very much like to know what the rest of the iceberg looks like.”

In the study, the researchers followed 587 children in the Faroe Islands, and measured their prenatal PFC levels through a blood test of the mother, and measured PFC levels in the child through the age of 5. To study the effect the chemicals had on immunity, the team analyzed antibody levels to the tetanus and diphtheria vaccines, which were given at 3, 5, and 12 months of age.

The researchers found that all five measured PFCs showed negative associations with antibody levels.

“We should all be concerned about [PFCs] in general and try to decrease everybody’s exposure to them,” said Dr. Jerome Paulson, medical director of the Child Health Advocacy Institute at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.