TUESDAY, Jan. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Exposure to high levels of a group of common household chemicals may impair children's immunity, a new study suggests.
The team of researchers, from the United States and Denmark, showed that elevated exposures to perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in early childhood was associated with a reduced immune response to two routine 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 findings appear in the Jan. 25 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
PFCs are commonly used in a wide range of household products including nonstick cookware, carpets, upholstery and food packaging such as microwave popcorn bags; previous research has found that the chemicals are present in most people's bloodstreams.
Other recent studies have linked increased exposure to the chemicals with early menopause and elevated cholesterol levels. But Grandjean said this is the first study in humans to find an association between high levels of PFCs in the blood and an impaired immune response.
"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."
For the study, Grandjean and his colleagues followed 587 children born in the Faroe Islands between 1999 and 2001. In the Faroes, located in the North Atlantic Sea between Iceland and Norway, frequent intake of seafood is associated with increased exp
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