A new study looking at exposure to PFAS* “forever chemicals” in the US revealed that nearly all participants have multiple dangerous compounds in their blood–and most people have PFAS in their blood at levels that researchers say requires medical screening.
The study is one of the largest ever conducted. Scientists analyzed 1,500 blood samples from people living in the Cape Fear River basin in North Carolina** over several years. (Approximately 1 million people live in the Cape Fear River Basin.) It is the first study to recommend screening for cancers, kidney damage, heart disease and other health issues linked to the toxic chemicals, using newly developed physicians’ guidelines for PFAS exposure.
PFAS chemicals (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are toxic to humans, animals and the environment. They are comprised of approximately 12,000 compounds. They are ubiquitous in the U.S., appearing in thousands of consumer and industrial products and are typically used to make products resist water, stains and heat, including household products (like carpeting, curtains, furniture upholstery, waterproof and stain-resistant flooring, etc.), cooking supplies (including cooking utensils and bake ware), clothing, personal care products (like cosmetics, including waterproof mascara) and even food (PFAS appears in processed food packaging for humans and pets) and public drinking water (tap water) that affects an estimated 2 million Americans. PFAS chemicals are usually found in products labeled “stain-proof” and “waterproof”. PFAS chemicals also appear in fire-fighting foam and other industrial products used at airports and military bases across the country, where the chemicals have leached into the groundwater. PFAS chemicals are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not readily break down in the environment or human body. PFAS chemicals have been linked in scientific and medical studies to a variety of serious health conditions including cancer (including testicular cancers), kidney disease, heart disease, thyroid problems, reproductive problems, endocrine problems (PFAS has been found to disrupt hormonal functions with some research suggesting that the PFAS chemicals are linked to accelerated ovarian aging, period irregularities and ovarian disorders like polycystic ovarian syndrome) and liver problems. Some newer PFAS have been found to accumulate in organs, so in some cases, science simply cannot detect the toxic chemicals when testing for it in blood.
**The Cape Fear basin pollution is thought to largely stem from a Fayetteville Chemours plant that DuPont operated for decades before 2015. Airports, textile producers and other industries upstream have also discharged PFAS into the river. Some of the compounds, like those commonly known as Nafion byproduct 2 and PFO4DA, are produced by Chemours. But “legacy” compounds that have largely been phased out of production in the US, like PFOS (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), were also used by other industries near the river. Traditional wastewater treatment methods cannot remove PFAS, so the compounds enter the waterways in a toxic state. Despite the phase-out by industry, the PFAS chemicals can stay in human blood for many years.
For more information on the PFAS study go here.