News / Health

Chemical Pollutant Reduces Effectiveness of Childhood Vaccines

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

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.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid