Read the full article by Jamie Dewitt, Phil Brown, Courtney Carignan, Shaina Kasper, Laurel Schaider and Maia Fitzstevens (Environmental Health News)

“‘In 2014, my world changed forever when I learned my family was exposed to contaminated drinking water containing high levels of PFAS. Since then, I haven’t stopped worrying about my family’s health,’ says Andrea Amico, a New Hampshire resident and PFAS community advocate turned national activist.

‘Impacted communities didn’t get a choice in their exposure. We were contaminated without our knowledge or consent. And now we have to grapple with anxiety and worry that our immune systems could be harmed by PFAS contamination that could make us more vulnerable to COVID-19.’

Andrea isn’t alone. She’s one of many leaders across the country who live in PFAS-exposed communities that fear for the lives of their families and how their PFAS exposure will affect their ability to fight COVID-19.

PFAS are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a class of chemicals used since the 1940s to make products non-stick, waterproof, and stain-resistant. They’re used in rain jackets, carpets, upholstery, cookware, fast food packaging, dental floss, and much more.

Dubbed ‘forever chemicals’ due to extreme environmental persistence, they’ve been found in environmental samples worldwide. An estimated 110 million American residents have PFAS in their tap water, partly due to widespread use in certain firefighting foams; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found PFAS in the blood of most Americans.

PFAS also have been linked to many health effects including high cholesterol and cancers, even at low levels of exposure.

Most concerning during this global pandemic, however, is that exposure to PFAS suppresses the ability of the immune system to make antibodies—the part of the immune system critically important in fighting COVID-19 and other infectious agents.

Exposed children have been reported to have decreased responses to common childhood vaccines, an impairment that lingers into teenage years. Studies of adults exposed to PFAS also have shown diminished responses to flu vaccines.

Our studies have found that laboratory animals exposed to PFAS have decreased antibodies, verifying what we have seen in PFAS-exposed people and making us confident that PFAS are toxic to the immune system.

Just last month, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry issued a statement about the potential intersection between PFAS exposure and COVID-19 and cited findings linking PFAS exposure to reductions in antibody responses to vaccines and resistance to infectious diseases.

Unlike other synthetic chemicals that affect the immune system, such as polychlorinated biphenyls and trichloroethylene, PFAS are unregulated by the U.S. government; currently there are no federal drinking water standards for PFAS…”