PFAS chemicals are toxic and persistent in the environment and the bodies of humans and other animals (thus earning the rubric, “forever chemicals”). The PFAS family of approximately 5,000 chemicals appear in thousands of products in the U.S. from food packaging, to nonstick cookware and bake ware, stain-resistant carpets and furniture, to waterproof clothing and shoes, along with rubber, plastics, tech devices, cosmetics, personal care products, and much more. PFAS has been found inside the drinking water supply across the U.S., bottled water, food packaging, and even the air inside private homes, schools and workplaces. Some of the most commonly used PFAS family of chemicals have been linked with a laundry list of serious health conditions and that list continues to grow every few months. It is not surprising therefore that a new scientific longitudinal study has revealed PFAS “forever chemicals” (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances ) may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in Latino adolescent girls*.
This was the first study to measure the potential impact of PFAS chemicals on glucose metabolism over time among adolescents and young adults. Researchers looked more than 310 Latino children between the ages of eight and 13 from the Study of Latino Adolescents at Risk of Type 2 Diabetes (SOLAR). Each participant was tested for levels of certain PFAS at the start of the study and then followed for up to 12 years, with annual check-ups on how their bodies metabolized glucose. The researchers replicated their findings in a separate group of young adults from the Southern California Children’s Health Study, showing that this link may persist into adulthood.
Data from the study showed that, starting in late puberty, girls who had high levels of a PFAS chemical called “perfluorohexane sulfonate”, or PFHxS in childhood tended to have poorer metabolism of glucose than girls who had low levels of PFHxS as children. The association between high levels of PFAS (PFHxS) and dysregulated glucose metabolism increased after puberty and persisted through 18 years of age. The study found no consistent association between high levels of PFAS and dysregulated glucose metabolism in boys.
*Young Latinos are at higher risk of type 2 diabetes…Rates of diabetes in Latino children in the U.S. are five times higher than that of non-Hispanic whites; in Latino adults, the rate is 80% higher than that in non-Hispanic whites.
Journal reference: Goodrich, J.A., et al. Exposure to Perfluoroalkyl Substances and Glucose Homeostasis in Youth, Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol 129 (9), Published: September 2021, CID: 097002, PDF version of study/overview/ https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP9200