Superfund Research Program

August 2019

Joseph Braun

Braun studies health effects of exposures before conception and in pregnant women, infants, and children.
(Photo courtesy of Brown University)

A study led by Joseph Braun, Ph.D., at the Brown University Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center, explains how per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) alter biological pathways involved in metabolism. PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that persist in the environment and are used in firefighting foam, cookware coatings, carpets, and upholstery.

The study focused on early-life PFAS exposure and identified changes to metabolism that may make children more susceptible to negative health effects of PFAS, such as obesity. Researchers recruited 114 8-year-olds from the Health Outcomes and Measures of the Environment (HOME) study in Cincinnati, Ohio. The children’s blood was analyzed for PFAS and their breakdown products, and the researchers looked for associations between PFAS concentration, breakdown products, and metabolic pathways.

The study suggests a connection between PFAS concentrations and their impact on several pathways related to amino acid and lipid metabolism. For example, the researchers observed alterations in vitamin B1 and B3 metabolism pathways, which may play a role in energy production and release. This study provides a foundation to further explore how PFAS exposure in children impacts pathways that could lead to obesity, later-onset puberty, and abnormal blood glucose and lipid levels.

Braun is a new addition to the Brown SRP Center, which studies how complex environmental contaminants, like PFAS, affect health.