Medical Monitoring Recommended for People Exposed to Toxic PFAS Chemicals

A new report from the National Academies recommends blood tests and medical monitoring for people likely to have high exposure to the toxic chemicals known as PFAS.  More importantly, the report recommends blood testing for a broad swath of the population: not only people who have lived in contaminated communities or with jobs that expose them to PFAS, but also those who have lived near commercial airports, military bases, wastewater treatment plants, farms where sewage sludge may have been used, or landfills or incinerators that have received waste containing PFAS.

The report offers the first comprehensive summary detailing links between PFAS levels in the blood and specific health concerns. It concludes there is now “sufficient evidence” of association between PFAS exposure and kidney cancer in adults, decreased infant and fetal growth, decreased immune response, and high cholesterol in adults and children.

The report also recommends that the Centers for Disease Control, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and public health departments create educational materials for clinicians, including information on PFAS exposure, potential health effects, and the pros and cons of testing.  (source)

REPORT OVERVIEW

Guidance on PFAS Exposure, Testing, and Clinical Follow-Up

(2022)

In thousands of communities across the United States, drinking water is contaminated with chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS are used in a wide range of products, such as non-stick cookware, water and stain repellent fabrics, and fire-fighting foam, because they have properties that repel oil and water, reduce friction, and resist temperature changes. PFAS can leak into the environment where they are made, used, disposed of, or spilled. PFAS exposure has been linked to a number of adverse health effects including certain cancers, thyroid dysfunction, changes in cholesterol, and small reductions in birth weight.

This report recommends that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) update its clinical guidance to advise clinicians to offer PFAS blood testing to patients who are likely to have a history of elevated exposure, such as those with occupational exposures or those who live in areas known to be contaminated. If testing reveals PFAS levels associated with an increased risk of adverse effects, patients should receive regular screenings and monitoring for these and other health impacts. Guidance on PFAS Exposure, Testing, and Clinical Follow-Up recommends that the CDC, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), and public health departments support clinicians by creating educational materials on PFAS exposure, potential health effects, the limitations of testing, and the benefits and harms of testing.

Contributor(s): National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Division on Earth and Life Studies; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Committee on the Guidance on PFAS Testing and Health Outcomes

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Guidance on PFAS Exposure, Testing, and Clinical Follow-Up


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