Experts question perfluorinated compounds and vaccine effectiveness link

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association asserting that routine child vaccines may not be effective in children with elevated blood levels of perfluorinated compounds is being questioned by experts.

PFCs can be found in consumer goods such as stain resistant carpeting, food packaging and other products. Philippe Grandjean, an adjunct professor of environmental health at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and his colleagues looked at PFC levels in the blood of children and their antibody responses, WebMD reports.

"The immune system may not be as responsive as we want it to be," Grandjean said, according to WebMD. "It may become sluggish because of the PFCs."

In an email rejecting the findings of the study, Gilbert Ross, the medical director of the American Council on Science and Health, said that the study does not hold any clinical significance.

"It appears to represent this group's attempt to link PFCs to some adverse health effect," Ross said, according to WebMD.

The study tested 656 children born from 1999 to 2001 in Scotland and found that the higher level of PFCs in the pregnant mothers' blood, the less likely the child was to produce antibodies at ages five and seven.

Grandjean said that if PFC levels doubled at age five, the risk of vaccine ineffectiveness could triple at the age of seven. He said that a study like this must be repeated because a link or association does not prove cause and effect. It is not known how PFCs may interfere with the body's antibody response.

"It is important for consumers to know that our companies, working with the EPA, have made marked progress towards advancing new chemistries that are substitutes for the older chemicals evaluated in this study," Marie Francis, a spokesperson for the American Chemistry Council, said, according to WebMD. "These new fluoro chemistries have an improved environmental and toxicological profile while continuing to offer consumer benefits."

According to Grandjean, some of the main potential sources for PFCs include microwave popcorn, shoes and clothing treated with stain repellents, furniture and carpet treated with stain repellents, and lubricants for ski boards and skis.