Pregnant mothers’ PFAS exposure may affect adult sons’ sperm quality

By Shannon Kelleher

A study that included more than 800 young Danish men found associations between levels of PFAS in their mothers’ plasma during early pregnancy and lower sperm quality when the men reached young adulthood.

The findings, which were published October 5 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, suggested that combined maternal exposure to seven of these toxic “forever chemicals” was associated with male offspring who grew up to have lower sperm concentrations, lower total sperm counts, and higher proportions of sperm that cannot travel normally (or at all).

The scientists identified one particular PFAS, perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), as the main contributor to all three effects on sperm quality, although they caution that more research is needed to confirm whether the chemical really has an outsized effect.

“This could mean that PFHpA is very potent or has a higher placental transfer than the other PFAS,” said Sandra Søgaard Tøttenborg, a professor at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and an author of the study. “It could also be a chance finding, considering the multiple comparisons we’ve made and the low concentrations of PFHpA. Before we have other studies to compare with and a more evidence on the mechanisms, we don’t put too much emphasis on this finding.”