Gump research links PFC exposure, children’s impulsivity

Perfluorochemicals, or PFCs, have been used in the manufacture and processing of many household items since the mid-1950s. Daily human exposure to PFCs may result from non-stick cookware, food packaging, paints and coatings, and waterproof fabrics. Today, PFCs are associated with attention and behavior problems in children, which was detailed in recently published research by associate professor of public health, Brooks Gump, in the June 17, 2011 edition of Environmental Science and Technology.

In this study, Gump and a collaborative research team found that increasing levels of PFCs in children’s blood were associated with an impaired ability to inhibit responses during an assessment, thus suggesting greater impulsivity. “These findings are critical because this environmental toxicant is widely dispersed in the environment and in the food we eat. All children in our convenience sample had detectable levels of PFCs. The outcome we considered—impaired response inhibition—is a core deficit of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).”

ADHD is a neurological disorder characterized by impulsive/hyperactive behavior and difficulty concentrating. While PFC exposure to people is widespread most notably through food, children are more highly exposed to the chemicals because in addition to food sources, the floors where they crawl, sit and play are prime locations where PFCs in household items, such as carpets, can escape and accumulate.

Gump’s research includes some of the first explorations of the relationship between PFC compounds and behavior problems, specifically impulsive behavior. Further research is needed to discern human health effects of PFC exposure. To date, few studies have examined the correlation between PFC exposure and its impact on child behavior.

With an array of research and publications, Gump’s specialties include psychosocial factors and their overall effect on health, and more recently, the effects of socioeconomic disadvantage, race, and environmental toxicants on children and adolescents’ health. He serves on the editorial board of the journal, Psychosomatic Medicine, and serves as an ad hoc reviewer for numerous other journals, including the American Journal of Epidemiology, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Journal of Women’s Health and Gender-Based Medicine and Social Science and Medicine. He is currently serving a 4-year term on the National Institute of Child Health and Development’s (NICHD’s) Health, Behavior, and Context Subcommittee.

He has been principal investigator on a number of grants from the National Institutes of Health and is currently principal investigator on a grant from the National Science Foundation, “Research Education for Undergraduate (REU) Site for Training Veterans to Conduct Trauma Research with Fellow Veterans.”