Antibody Responses to Vaccines and PFAS Exposure in Early Childhood

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Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), are human-made chemicals commonly incorporated into personal care products, cookware, food packaging, and other industrial uses. Previous studies have found that early life exposure to PFAS is associated with health effects in both animal and human studies. There are growing concerns over the potential health consequences such as immunological health associated with prenatal and early childhood PFAS exposure. Studies have found that exposure to environmental stressors during early periods of fetal growth and development may have implications for the development of later life adverse health effects.

Few studies have assessed the association between PFAS exposure and waning immunity to vaccines during early childhood. Of these studies, PFAS exposure has been inversely associated with antibody responses to vaccines against infectious diseases such as diphtheria and tetanus. Antibody responses to vaccines are commonly used as biomarkers to assess immune function and development. The objective of this study was to evaluate the impacts of PFAS exposures on critical windows of immune function and maturation in early childhood. Early childhood immune function was evaluated using antibody responses to the Diphtheria-Tetanus-acellular Pertussis (DTaP) vaccine. Multiple linear regression analyses (adjusted for child’s age, biological sex of child, and maternal age) were conducted to evaluate the associations between maternal and child serum PFAS levels in a North Carolina birth cohort (n=47) and antibody responses to the DTaP vaccine in children (ages 3-6). Maternal serum PFAS were used to assess prenatal exposure. Child serum was analyzed for diphtheria and tetanus antibody titers as well as postnatal PFAS exposure.

Prenatal PFAS exposure measured from maternal serum was not significantly associated with tetanus antibody titers; however, a positive and significant association (p<0.05) was observed between prenatal PFNA exposure and diphtheria antibody titers. Postnatal PFAS exposure was not significantly associated with diphtheria antibody titers. Postnatal PFOA exposure was positively associated with tetanus antibody responses (p<0.05). The results do not suggest that prenatal and early childhood exposure to PFAS is associated with declines in immune responses to vaccines. Other factors associated with environmental PFAS exposure and vaccine antibody responses should be explored to expand on these findings.





Bao, Nancy (2021). Antibody Responses to Vaccines and PFAS Exposure in Early Childhood. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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