Reproductive outcomes at changing PFAS exposures in Minnesota

September 9, 2020
1:00 pm US Eastern Time

During this webinar, Drs. Phillipe Grandjean and Gina Waterfield provided some background and presented their findings on a newly published study utilizing population data from a community in Minnesota, which demonstrated the reproductive impact of PFAS-contaminated water and the positive changes in reproductive outcomes after implementing drinking water filtration. The PFASs in human exposures share several adverse properties. Their persistence and mobility results in passage across the placenta into the circulation, and they are also excreted into human milk, thereby prolonging the duration of the next generation’s elevated exposure. Common PFASs are known to be endocrine disruptors and immunotoxicants, and the early-life exposures therefore lead to developmental effects that may be lasting. 

Given the increasing evidence on the health impacts of PFASs, their detection in drinking water supplies around the world has spurred intense regulatory debate and municipal action. In the east Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area of Minnesota, a portion of the population faced elevated exposure to PFASs due to long-term contamination of drinking water supplies from industrial waste disposal. Installation of a water filtration facility in the highly contaminated city of Oakdale at the end of 2006 resulted in a sharp decrease in exposure to PFASs, creating a “natural experiment.” Dr. Waterfield, Dr. Grandjean, and other co-investigators compared the changes in birth outcomes before and after water filtration in Oakdale to the changes over the same period in neighboring communities where the treatment of municipal water remained constant, providing evidence of a causal relationship between filtration of drinking water containing high levels of PFASs and improved reproductive outcomes. 

Featured Speakers

Philippe Grandjean, PhD, conducts international research to assess adverse health effects from exposures to environmental chemicals, such as PFASs, especially those occurring prenatally during highly vulnerable early life stages. His main focus is on development of the brain and the immune system, as revealed from long-term follow-up of birth cohorts. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Harvard T.H.Chan School of Public Health and also serves as Professor and Chair of Environmental Medicine at the University of Southern Denmark. Hi co-directs the STEEP Superfund Center that focuses entirely on PFASs.


Gina Waterfield, PhD, is an Economist at the Nature Conservancy, where she conducts research on the human benefits of environmental conservation and protection. She previously worked in economic consulting, focusing on economic and statistical analyses in the context of environmental litigation, including the health outcomes associated with harm to natural resources. She received her Ph.D. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of California Berkeley.



This webinar is one in a monthly series sponsored by the Collaborative on Health and the Environment’s EDC Strategies Partnership. The CHE EDC Strategies Partnership is chaired by Sharyle Patton (Commonweal Biomonitoring Resource Center), Jerry Heindel (Commonweal HEEDS, Healthy Environment and Endocrine Disruptor Strategies), and Genon Jensen (HEAL) and coordinated by Hannah Donart (Collaborative on Health and the Environment, a Commonweal program). To see a full list of past calls and webinars related to EDCs and listen to or view recordings, please visit our partnership page. 

This webinar was moderated by Sharyle Patton, Director of the Commonweal Biomonitoring Resource Center. It lasted for 45 minutes and was recorded for our call and webinar archive. If you did not have a chance to ask a question during the Q&A portion of the presentation, please submit your questions to Sharyle Patton at spatton@commonweal.org by September 16 and we will respond via email.