Read the full article by Kevin Loria (Consumer Reports)

“You might have never heard of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, but it is now a global epidemic, thought to affect roughly 25 percent of the world’s population—including approximately 89 million Americans. It’s a matter of grave concern because untreated, the condition can progress to serious liver injury, including cirrhosis and liver failure.

Now a new research review suggests that one contributing factor to rising rates could be PFAS, the ubiquitous chemicals used in nonstick pans, waterproof gear, firefighting foam, takeout containers, and more.

Researchers have identified several conditions that put people at greater risk for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), including obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. But scientists are still trying to understand all the factors contributing to the significant rise in cases. Previous research suggests that exposure to environmental chemicals such as PCBs—banned since the 1970s but still found in the environment—could play a role. In the new review, published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers looked at both human and animal studies and found that exposure to PFAS may be a significant risk factor as well.

PFAS and Your Health

PFAS have long been used in a wide variety of products and are often called ‘forever chemicals’ because they don’t break down naturally or they do so extremely slowly. That means they accumulate in the environment and in us. In recent decades, PFAS have been linked to a growing list of health problems, including a weakened immune system, kidney damage, and increased risk for certain cancers.

There has at times been a perception that the effects of PFAS exposure on the liver are somewhat uncertain, says Alan Ducatman, MD, professor emeritus at West Virginia University’s School of Public Health, who co-wrote a commentary on the new review. But ‘it’s not the case that the findings of PFAS are inconclusive or inconsistent, they are quite consistent,’ he says—as this new review confirms. Scientists should feel confident calling PFAS ‘hepatotoxic,’ or damaging to the liver, Ducatman says. 

Liver damage has long been observed in communities exposed to high levels of PFAS, says Jamie DeWitt, PhD, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at East Carolina University, who was not involved with the new study. The new review helps solidify these observations. ‘Evidence from epidemiological studies and animal studies confirms the liver is targeted by PFAS,’ she says.”…