Association between Serum Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Thyroid Disease in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, also known as C8) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) are stable compounds with many industrial and consumer uses. Their persistence in the environment plus toxicity in animal models has raised concern over low-level chronic exposure effects on human health.
We estimated associations between serum PFOA and PFOS concentrations and thyroid disease prevalence in representative samples of the U.S. general population.
Analyses of PFOA/PFOS versus disease status in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for 1999–2000, 2003–2004, and 2005–2006 included 3,974 adults with measured concentrations for perfluorinated chemicals. Regression models were adjusted for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, smoking status, body mass index, and alcohol intake.
The NHANES-weighted prevalence of reporting any thyroid disease was 16.18% (n = 292) in women and 3.06% (n = 69) in men; prevalence of current thyroid disease with related medication was 9.89% (n = 163) in women and 1.88% (n = 46) in men. In fully adjusted logistic models, women with PFOA ≥ 5.7 ng/mL [fourth (highest) population quartile] were more likely to report current treated thyroid disease [odds ratio (OR) = 2.24; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.38–3.65; p = 0.002] compared with PFOA ≤ 4.0 ng/mL (quartiles 1 and 2); we found a near significant similar trend in men (OR = 2.12; 95% CI, 0.93–4.82; p = 0.073). For PFOS, in men we found a similar association for those with PFOS ≥ 36.8 ng/mL (quartile 4) versus ≤ 25.5 ng/mL (quartiles 1 and 2: OR for treated disease = 2.68; 95% CI, 1.03–6.98; p = 0.043); in women this association was not significant.
Higher concentrations of serum PFOA and PFOS are associated with current thyroid disease in the U.S. general adult population. More work is needed to establish the mechanisms involved and to exclude confounding and pharmacokinetic explanations.
Keywords: C8, human population, PFOA, PFOS, thyroid disease
Environ Health Perspect. 2010 May; 118(5): 686–692. Published online 2010 Jan 20. doi: 10.1289/ehp.0901584