Read the full article by Scott Shumaker (Stars and Stripes)

“(Tribune News Service) — Donating blood can save lives, but in the future, doctors may also prescribe rolling up a sleeve and exposing a vein for the health of certain donors.

Research from Australia published in 2021 suggests blood donations reduce the donor’s concentration of a class of toxic substances called ‘per- and polyfluoroakyl substances,’ or PFAS, popularly called ‘forever chemicals.’

PFAS don’t really last ‘forever,’ but they earned the moniker because some stay in the body for almost 10 years and accumulate in organs, blood and bones with repeated exposures.

Recent research link PFAS to higher cancer rates, decreased birth weight, hormone disruption, elevated blood pressure and increased incidence of preeclampsia in pregnant women.

Firefighters are at higher risk of PFAS exposure due to the chemicals in foams and protective gear as well as in household products burned in fires.

The Australian study showed firefighters with high PFAS levels who gave blood regularly saw a 10% decrease in their levels after a year and those who gave plasma — the clear part of the blood — dropped 30%.

Arizona firefighters could play a key role in developing the next chapter of this insight when the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and the Arizona Fire Chiefs Association partner on a $4 million study this year that hopes to enroll 1,500 Arizona firefighters.

The study came in response to a call from the AFCA for more research on PFAS and firefighter safety.

At roughly 20% of the professional firefighters in Arizona, the Arizona study could provide a pool to confirm whether regular blood and plasma donations lower PFAS and produce measurable health improvements.

Arizona firefighters who volunteer will have their PFAS levels tested and those with the top 20% of concentrations will give blood every 12 weeks or plasma every six weeks. Their PFAS levels and DNA health indicators will be tested at the beginning and end of the study.

Those with lower levels will have the option to join other studies and participate in other interventions involving diet and exercise.

Lead investigator Dr. Jeff Burgess, a professor and director of the U of A’s Center for Firefighter Health Collaborative Research, said the Arizona study aims to validate the Australian study and take it a step further by also measuring firefighters for ‘biomarkers of toxicity.’

The biomarkers will provide data on whether lowering PFAS blood levels improves health, as researchers suspect it will.

‘It’s going to be a big deal,’ he said of the study. ‘In addition to being able to determine whether we can lower the PFAS levels in firefighters and have a beneficial effect, these same findings should be generalizable to individuals in the general population that also have elevated PFAS levels.’

Burgess and collaborator Dr. Floris Wardenaar of Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions don’t expect any difficulty recruiting the target number of participants because the research questions came from local firefighters.

Burgess said firefighters want to know their PFAS levels, and one immediate perk of the study is getting that information.

Burgess said the results of the study could have implications far beyond the firefighting community.” …