DURHAM, N.C., March 15, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — High exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) during pregnancy may be associated with lower birthweights, according to a new study funded by Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes Program (ECHO) at the National Institutes of Health.

PFAS are widely used, long lasting chemicals, also known as “forever chemicals,” that break down slowly over time and can be found in drinking water, food, household products, personal care products, manufacturing facilities, and other sources.

“Outside of research studies, pregnant people are not tested for PFAS and are uncertain of the potential harms PFAS can cause,” said Amy Padula, PhD, MSc, an ECHO Program investigator at the University of California, San Francisco. “We need to better understand where people are most likely to be exposed to these substances given the number of sources, from drinking water to consumer products.”

This is the largest study to date to examine the role of PFAS in birth outcomes, involving more than 3,000 pregnant participants from 11 different ECHO research sites across the United States. Researchers measured PFAS levels in pregnant participants’ blood samples and found that the risk of giving birth to a baby of low birthweight increases with higher levels of these chemicals.

Dr. Padula and Tracey Woodruff, PhD, MPH, ECHO Program investigators at the University of California, San Francisco led this collaborative research published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Padula, A. et al. Birth Outcomes in Relation to Prenatal Exposure to Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances and Stress in the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program. Environmental Health Perspectives. DOI: 10.1289/EHP10723

About ECHO: ECHO is a nationwide research program supported by the NIH. Launched in 2016, ECHO aims to enhance the health of children for generations to come. ECHO investigators study the effects of a broad range of early environmental influences on child health and development. For more information, visit

About the NIH: NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information, visit

SOURCE NIH Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program

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