Kira Mok, Sabrina Balmaseda, and Sophia Shaughnessy present posters at RISE event on Thursday April 13, 2023.

This project uses in-depth interviews to examine the risks firefighters face from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and what actions have been taken to address those hazards. PFAS are a class of toxic chemicals associated with a variety of negative health effects, such as cancer and decreased immune response. While most people have some exposure to PFAS, firefighters have the potential for high levels of occupational PFAS exposure from some firefighting foams and the turnout gear that they wear. As a result, firefighters have become a central component of activism to reduce PFAS production and use.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are persistent chemicals that can impact the reproductive health of human populations. Epidemiological studies have addressed these outcomes yet may lack diverse representation. This research summarizes population demographics in 158 existing studies from the PFAS-Tox Database, a systematic evidence map containing human health and toxicology literature on 29 PFAS. Data from U.S. studies on Non-Hispanic White, Non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic, White, Black/African American, and Asian/Pacific Islander, as well as Other/Missing racial/ethnic categories were extracted from each study. Information on study location, design, and sample size was also collected. Evaluation of demographic groups represented are presented in tables and figures. In short, we found that when reported, the groups appeared to be represented in comparison to U.S. Census data. For example, the mean percent inclusion among U.S. studies for Hispanic (13%), Black/African American or Non-Hispanic Black (12–17%), Asian/Pacific Islander (4%), and White or Non-Hispanic White (51–68%) were comparable to U.S. Census statistics (19% for Hispanic, 14% for Black/African American, 6% for Asian/Pacific Islander,  and 59–76% for White or Non-Hispanic White, respectively). However, most studies lacked inclusion or reporting on two important racial/ethnic subgroups with regard to disproportionate PFAS exposures and adverse reproductive outcomes–Asian/Pacific Islander and Native American populations. These findings will provide valuable insights into which racial/ethnic groups are overlooked, enabling future research to be more inclusive of these underrepresented communities.

The goal of this systematic review was to characterize the relationship between maternal exposure to synthetic chemicals called perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) during pregnancy and breastfeeding duration. Given the benefits of breastfeeding to the infant, understanding the factors that influence a mother’s ability to breastfeed for as long as possible is imperative. Through conducting a review of the available literature, we found evidence suggesting perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) significantly reduces the duration of breastfeeding, however the exact mechanisms by which specific PFAS affect breastfeeding duration remain unknown. Next steps include examining other PFAS and why there is this interaction.