Read the full article by Janelle Weaver (Environmental Factor)

“Treating the thousands of potentially toxic chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as a single class could reduce health risks and contamination, and improve clean-up efforts, according to a June 30 commentary by an international group of experts.

The article was published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters. It was selected as an American Chemical Society Editors’ Choice publication, making it freely available to the public. Co-authors include NIEHS Scientist Emeritus Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., and Mark Miller, Ph.D., chief of staff in the institute’s Office of the Director. Carol Kwiatkowski, Ph.D., from North Carolina State University, is the lead author. 

‘Managing PFAS one-by-one is neither feasible nor cost-efficient,’ the scientists wrote. ‘More comprehensive solutions are needed, given that traditional approaches have failed to control widespread exposures to PFAS and resulted in inadequate public health protection. We suggest class-based options to more comprehensively and efficiently reduce PFAS exposure.’

Pressing health issue

Elevated levels of PFAS in human blood have been associated with many human health concerns, including immune suppression and adverse developmental effects. According to the authors, other potential consequences include the following:

  • Increased risk of kidney and testicular cancer.
  • Elevated cholesterol.
  • Liver disease.
  • Decreased fertility.
  • Thyroid problems.
  • Changes in hormone functioning.

Animal studies support the associations seen in humans and show PFAS can cause a range of biological issues, the scientists noted. Also, widespread environmental contamination means large populations are exposed to the substances (see sidebar). But despite their known risks, authorities test for fewer than 50 of the PFAS that are in the environment. To date, less than 1% of all PFAS have been evaluated for toxicity…”