Background: Perfluoroalkylated substances (PFAS) are man-made, persistent organic compounds with immune-modulating potentials. Given that pregnancy itself represents an altered state of immunity, PFAS exposure-related immunotoxicity is an important environmental factor to consider in SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy as it may further affect humoral immune responses. Aim: To investigate the relationship between maternal plasma PFAS concentrations and SARS-CoV-2 antibody levels in a NYC-based pregnancy cohort. Methods: Maternal plasma was collected from 72 SARS-CoV-2 IgG + participants of the Generation C Study, a birth cohort established at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City. Maternal SARS-CoV-2 anti-spike IgG antibody levels were measured using ELISA. A panel of 16 PFAS congeners were measured in maternal plasma using a targeted UHPLC-MS/MS-based assay. Spearman correlations and linear regressions were employed to explore associations between maternal IgG antibody levels and plasma PFAS concentrations. Weighted quantile sum (WQS) regression was also used to evaluate mixture effects of PFAS. Models were adjusted for maternal age, gestational age at which SARS-CoV-2 IgG titer was measured, COVID-19 vaccination status prior to IgG titer measurement, maternal race/ethnicity, parity, type of insurance and pre-pregnancy BMI. Results: Our study population is ethnically diverse with an average maternal age of 32 years. Of the 16 PFAS congeners measured, nine were detected in more than 60% samples. Importantly, all nine congeners were negatively correlated with SARS-CoV-2 anti-spike IgG antibody levels; n-PFOA and PFHxS, PFHpS, and PFHxA reached statistical significance (p < 0.05) in multivariable analyses. When we examined the mixture effects using WQS, a quartile increase in the PFAS mixture-index was significantly associated with lower maternal IgG antibody titers (beta [95% CI] = −0.35 [-0.52, −0.17]). PFHxA was the top contributor to the overall mixture effect. Conclusions: Our study results support the notion that PFAS, including short-chain emerging PFAS, act as immunosuppressants during pregnancy. Whether such compromised immune activity leads to downstream health effects, such as the severity of COVID-19 symptoms, adverse obstetric outcomes or neonatal immune responses remains to be investigated.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115067
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - 15 Feb 2023


  • COVID19
  • Immunotoxicity
  • PFAS
  • Pregnancy
  • SARS-CoV-2 IgG


Dive into the research topics of 'Cross-sectional associations of maternal PFAS exposure on SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibody levels during pregnancy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this