Chemicals found in packaging, household items may compromise children’s immune systems

Chemicals found in cookware, fast-food packaging and microwave popcorn bags may compromise children's immune systems and reduce the effectiveness of childhood vaccines, according to a new study.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, focused on PFCs — perfluorinated compounds — which are widely used in products that repel water, grease and stains.

Children with higher levels of PFCs in their bodies did not get optimal protection from their vaccines, CNN cited the study as saying.

The hundreds of PFCs in use, for example in non-stick cookware, rain gear, fast-food packaging, paper plates and strain-resistant carpets and fabrics, can be absorbed through food and water. A 2011 report found that six of 10 paper bags and cardboard boxes used for food packaging contained PFCs, Sci-Tech Today reported

During the study, scientists measured children's exposure by taking blood samples from their mothers during pregnancy and again when the children were 5 and 7.

According to study author Dr. Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, cited by Sci-Tech Today:

At age 5, just before receiving a scheduled booster shot, 26 percent had antibody concentrations too low to protect them from tetanus; 37 percent had levels too low to protect from diphtheria. Children without adequate protection at age 7 were given additional boosters.

Children with the highest prenatal PFC exposure had the lowest response to vaccinations, while doubling a child's PFC exposure cut immune response in half. 

"Routine childhood immunizations are a mainstay of modern disease prevention. The negative impact on childhood vaccinations from PFCs should be viewed as a potential threat to public health," Grandjean reportedly said.

According to CNN, the Environmental Protection Agency was working with companies "to eliminate the use of certain PFCs in products by 2015, but many goods imported from other countries contain PFCs."

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