News / Health

Study Shows PFCs Can Reduce Vaccine Effectiveness

Vidushi Sinha

A new study finds that children exposed to common industrial chemicals, called perfluorinated compounds or PFCs, have a reduced immune response to vaccines intended to protect them from disease. PFCs are used around the world to make waterproof rain gear and food containers, and are known to pollute drinking water and seafood. PFC contamination could have a significant impact on the effectiveness of global immunization efforts.

When children are vaccinated their immune systems produce antibodies that protect them from debilitating and potentially deadly childhood infections, such as polio, measles, diphtheria and tetanus. The protection is supposed to last a lifetime.

But scientists say the effectiveness of these vaccines is severely reduced when children are exposed to high levels of PFCs:

“This was quite serious because we could also see some of the children were so low in antibody concentration that they were essentially not protected. They have been vaccinated four times and vaccines had not worked,” said Dr. Phillipe Grandjean of the Harvard School of Public Health.

Grandjean led a team of scientists in a study of children living on the Faroe Islands between Scotland and Iceland.

The islanders were chosen as subjects because their diet is mainly seafood, known to have high concentrations of PFCs.

The scientists followed a group of more than 500 children who'd been vaccinated against diphtheria and tetanus. But children who showed elevated levels of PFCs in their blood also had very low concentrations of antibodies against these infections.

“It was quite a striking fact, one that I would not have anticipated,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, which promotes vaccine development and delivery around the world.        

Hotez said if PFCs do, in fact, interfere with antibodies and immune system functions, then the public health problem is going to be much worse in the urban slums of low- and middle-income countries, where exposure to these industrial chemicals can be much higher.

“Even a modest reduction in vaccine coverage and vaccine immune responses could lead to subsequent outbreaks of childhood disease.  And there is a risk that we could see recurrences of childhood killers such as diphtheria or pertussis or other childhood diseases now becoming more common in the world’s poorest countries,” said Hotez.

Scientists say PFCs are stable and persistent chemicals that have been in wide use for decades - so much so that everyone probably has detectable levels of the compounds in their body.

“We have not done enough in regard to protecting the population against these old compounds, and now we are stuck because we all have them in our bodies and we are all using them,” said Grandjean.

Critics note that since the study was done on island residents eating a mostly fish diet, it should have taken into account polyunsaturated fatty acids [PUFAs], which are found in fish and may suppress the immune system.

Researchers say there is an urgent need to study the adverse health effects of perfluorinated compounds on larger populations.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  



You May Like

As AIDS Epidemic Matures, Workplaces Adapt

Issue of AIDS in workplace is one of many social issues being discussed at the 20th International Aids Conference in Australia More

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid