PFAS and your health: Pregnancy, infant feeding, and young children

pregnant person holding their belly

People have many worries during pregnancy and when their children are very young. These worries include understanding how substances in the environment might affect their children’s health. For people who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or feeding an infant, it’s important to learn about these substances. Read on to learn about the risks associated with PFAS and ways to reduce your exposure.


What are PFAS? 

PFAS are a family of chemicals in some firefighting foam and many other products. The chemicals exist throughout our environment. PFOA and PFOS are two chemicals in the PFAS family. 

Almost everyone has some level of PFAS in their blood. Higher levels can increase the risk of certain health impacts. 

No insurance? 

Apply for Health First Colorado (Colorado's Medicaid Program) or the Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+). Visit healthfirstcolorado.com  

To find out if you are eligible for the WIC food program, visit coloradowic.gov


PFAS exposure during pregnancy 

  • PFAS build up in humans over time. These chemicals cross the placenta and reach the developing fetus. They also pass through breastmilk. Exposure to PFOA and PFOS during pregnancy can contribute to: 
    • High blood pressure in the parent. 
    • Lower infant birth weights. 
    • Less effectiveness of tetanus and diphtheria vaccine in children. 
  • Health care providers watch blood pressure and fetal growth during routine prenatal care. Your provider can tell you if you need to take extra steps to protect your or your child’s health. 

Unborn and young children may be at higher risk 

  • Pregnant people and lactating women drink more water per pound of body weight than the average person. If PFAS are in their drinking water, they may have higher exposure. 
  • Because children are still developing, they may be more sensitive to the harmful effects of chemicals such as PFAS. Children can also be exposed more than adults because they: 
    • Drink more water, eat more food, and breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. 
    • Crawl on floors and put things in their mouths. This leads to potential exposure from carpets, household dust, toys, and cleaning products.

Feeding your baby

  • Doctors and scientist agree that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risks. People should continue to breastfeed, even when there might be contaminants such as PFAS in their environment. 
  • If you use infant formula, and your drinking water has higher levels of PFAS, use bottled or treated water to prepare the formula. 

Reducing your exposure to PFAS 

  • PFAS leave the body slowly. There is still a chance your baby will be exposed to these chemicals before birth or through breastmilk. But, reducing exposure may help ensure a healthier pregnancy and baby. 
  • Drinking water is the main source of exposure to PFAS for many people. You may want to use treated or bottled water for drinking and cooking, in addition to making infant formula. See bit.ly/alt-water for more information. 
  • Diet and consumer products containing the chemicals may also expose people to PFAS. Visit cdphe.colorado.gov/pfas-health to learn more.


For information about PFAS and your health, contact ToxCall at (303) 692-2606 or cdphe_toxcall@state.co.us