The critical period for increased neonatal mortality induced by perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) exposure was evaluated in the rat. Timed-pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats were treated by oral gavage with 25 mg/kg/d PFOS/K+ on four consecutive days (gestation days (GD) 2–5, 6–9, 10–13, 14–17, or 17–20) or with 0, 25, or 50 mg/kg/d PFOS/K+ on GD 19–20. Controls received vehicle (10 ml/kg 0.5% Tween-20) on these days. Maternal weight gain was reduced in treated animals during dosing, as were food and water consumption. Following a 4-day treatment, litter size at birth was unaffected while pup weight was similarly reduced in the three earliest PFOS groups. All PFOS groups experienced decreases in survival while controls remained near 100%. Neonatal survival decreased in groups dosed later during gestation, approaching 100% with dosing on GD 17–20. Most deaths occurred before postnatal day (PND) 4, with the majority in the first 24 hours. Maternal serum PFOS levels on GD 21 were higher in groups exhibiting higher mortality. Following a 2-day treatment, PFOS groups experienced significant pup mortality by PND 1. Neonatal mortality continued through PND 5, when survival was 98, 66, and 3% for the 0, 25, and 50 mg/kg groups, respectively. Pup weight was reduced in treated groups with surviving litters. Gross dissection and histological examination of lungs revealed differences in maturation between control and treated animals on PND 0. We conclude that exposure to PFOS late in gestation is sufficient to induce 100% pup mortality and that inhibition of lung maturation may be involved. Birth Defects Res B 68:465–471, 2003. Published 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.