Vaccination Efficacy and Environmental Pollution

  • Katrine Kielsen
  • Zaiba Shamim
  • Lars P. Ryder
  • Philippe Grandjean
  • Carsten Heilmann


Childhood vaccinations are of substantial public health relevance and have contributed significantly to reduced mortality and morbidity from severe infectious diseases.

Persistent organic pollutants are industrially produced chemicals, which are highly persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic to humans. As the immunological response to vaccinations is a feasible parameter and represents major immune functions, it is most relevant for the assessment of human immune suppression caused by such agents in large epidemiological studies.

This chapter focuses on the limited number of environmental pollutants for which such vaccination data exists, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and perfluorinated alkylate substances (PFAS), which are described individually. In general, elevated exposures to these compounds were associated with reduced humoral immune response to routine childhood immunizations. The prenatal and early postnatal exposure to PCB were most immunotoxic, possible through toxicity toward the developing immune system of young infants, while the contemporary exposure to PFAS reduces the antibody levels in a more direct manner.

The presented results in this chapter might explain some of the wide variation in antibody responses to immunization and support the hypothesis that some people today could be immunocompromised because of their exposure to environmental pollutants. Due to their high persistence, PCBs and PFAS will remain widespread in the environment, but the presented evidence of immunotoxicity indicates that human exposure to these chemicals should be limited to protect the human immune system throughout its lifetime.


Antibody Response Booster Vaccination PFOS Exposure Vaccination Response Routine Childhood Immunization 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The research summarized in this chapter has been supported by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH (ES012199 and ES021993), the National Science Foundation (OCE-1321612), the US Environmental Protection Agency (R830758), the Danish Council for Strategic Research (09–063094), and the Danish Environmental Protection Agency as part of the environmental support program DANCEA (Danish Cooperation for Environment in the Arctic). The authors are solely responsible for the conclusions expressed in this chapter, which do not necessarily reflect the position of any of the funding agencies. We thank Katie T. Herz for editorial comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katrine Kielsen
    • 1
  • Zaiba Shamim
    • 1
  • Lars P. Ryder
    • 2
  • Philippe Grandjean
    • 3
    • 4
  • Carsten Heilmann
    • 5
  1. 1.Institute for Inflammation Research, Department of Paediatric and Adolescent MedicineCopenhagen University Hospital RigshospitaletCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Clinical ImmunologyCopenhagen University Hospital RigshospitaletCopenhagenDenmark
  3. 3.Department of Environmental MedicineUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdenseDenmark
  4. 4.Department of Environmental HealthHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  5. 5.Department of Paediatric and Adolescent MedicineCopenhagen University Hospital RigshospitaletCopenhagenDenmark

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