News / Health

    Chemical Pollutant Reduces Effectiveness of Childhood Vaccines

    Jessica Berman

    Childhood vaccinations are a staple of disease prevention. But a new study finds that when children are exposed to elevated levels of common industrial chemicals called perfluorinated compounds or PFCs, their immune systems become less responsive to routine vaccines, putting them at risk for serious illness.  

    PFCs are everywhere in the environment.  The industrial compounds are used as water repellents in rain gear, cloth, carpeting, and food packaging. The chemicals are stable and extremely persistent. Almost everyone has a detectable level of PFCs in their body from exposure through clothing or food products, or from drinking PFC-contaminated drinking water.  
    Although the health effects of PFCs are still a poorly understood problem, a team of scientists has identified at least one very serious adverse effect on children's immune systems.    

    Doctor Phillipe Grandjean, at the Harvard School of Public Health in Massachusetts, and his colleagues found that children exposed to PFCs in the womb, and later exposed to elevated levels of the chemical in the environment, showed evidence of reduced immune protection against two diseases, tetanus and diphtheria.  

    Grandjean and his team determined the effectiveness of the childhood vaccines by measuring the concentration of blood-borne antibodies against the two illnesses in a group of vaccinated children.  

    Vaccines stimulate the body's production of antibodies, or protective proteins, by exposing the immune system to tiny, harmless amounts of a disease-causing microorganism.  Later on, if the antibodies encounter that microbial invader in force, the protein sentries alert the immune system to the presence of disease-causing organisms and specialized cells are dispatched to destroy them.

    Grandjean says many children in the study who had been exposed to high levels of PFCs showed very low concentrations of tetanus and diphtheria antibodies in their blood. “And some of these kids had such low concentrations that they were essentially unprotected by age seven, despite the fact that they had had four vaccinations by that time," he said.

    Grandjean says these children were re-vaccinated, though it is uncertain how well the vaccines will protect them from tetanus and diptheria.  And he says the evidence suggests their immune system deficits might create vulnerabilities to other disease organisms as well.

    “I mean this is the mainstay of prevention.  We want our kids to be vaccinated.  But the problem is if the vaccines don’t work because the immune system has become sluggish because of pollution, then we have a problem," he said.

    The study involved 587 children, born between 1999 and 2001, in the Faroe Islands, a country in the Norwegian Sea that lies between Scotland and Iceland.  Researchers chose the Faroe Islands because the diet of residents is rich in seafood, which is known to contain high concentrations of PFCs.

    Grandjean says pollution by perfluorinated compounds is a global problem in need of an international solution.  He notes that while the U.S. has stopped manufacturing PFCs, the chemicals are now produced in countries like China and used in a variety of imported and American-made products.

    An article by Phillipe Grandjean and colleagues on the reduced effectiveness of childhood vaccinations is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora