PFAS linked to infertility, diabetes and billions in economic costs
Researchers at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine have found strong evidence exposure to a common group of household chemicals can be associated with 13 different health conditions. The related economic costs have been estimated at between US$5 billion and $60 billion annually in the United States alone.
First developed in the 1940s, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) encompass more than 4,700 different chemical molecules. For decades these chemicals were used in a variety of manufacturing contexts, from non-stick cookware and waterproof clothing to carpets and firefighting foams.
Because PFAS chemicals tend to persist in he environment for long periods of time they have anecdotally been dubbed “forever chemicals.” And the sheer pervasiveness of PFAS in 20th century manufacturing led to studies finding traces of the chemicals in the blood of nearly every American.
Leveraging a very large body of pre-existing research, this new study looked to quantify the disease burden of PFAS exposure and estimate the economic cost of this in regards to medical bills and lost worker productivity. The goal of the economic estimate was to offer regulators a way to evaluate the cost-benefit of eliminating PFAS from our environment.
Some of the conditions linked to PFAS in the new study have been previously associated with exposure to the chemicals. These include kidney cancer, hypothyroidism and low birth weight. But the broader systematic analysis conducted in the new study also pointed to more novel PFAS health conditions, such as infertility, endometriosis, bronchitis and type 2 diabetes.
Calculating the associated economic costs of PFAS-related disease and disability in the United States, the most conservative estimate was $5.52 billion annually. At the other end of the spectrum the study found those costs could be as much as $62.6 billion every year.
Senior author Leonardo Trasande said these findings should help lawmakers understand that engaging in decontamination programs to remove PFAS from water supplies would likely be a cheaper option considering these broader economic costs.
“Our results strongly support the recent decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to lower the safe allowable level of these substances in water,” said Trasande. “Based on our estimates, the cost of eradicating contamination and replacing this class of chemical with safer alternatives is ultimately justified when considering the tremendous economic and medical risks of allowing them to persist in the environment.”
Despite the striking findings, the researchers point out in the study how conservative they were in calculating these estimates. Only data from studies with strong evidence was included in evaluations of disease burden.
“We did not include outcomes reported by the C8 Science Panel that were not confirmed in general population studies, as those associations were identified in a highly exposed population and our focus was on estimating the disease burden and economic costs due to routine exposure,” the study noted. “We also did not include endpoints for which not enough consistent evidence has accumulated, such as prematurity, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and lowered IQ in children resulting from prenatal exposure, and prostate cancer in adult men.”
Ultimately, the researchers suggest these findings are merely the tip-of-the-iceberg in regards to the impacts of PFAS exposure. Further study is set to better investigate the long-term effects of PFAS exposure, and expand to estimate economic impacts from other known toxic chemicals such as bisphenols.
The study was published in the journal Exposure and Health.
Source: NYU Langone Health
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I guess the detractors can't be bothered to read the article. The PFAs, PFOAs & PFOS are obsequious in our environment. They repel water, oil, and grease and so have been used to protect many items from clothing to pots & pans. PFOA is commonly used in the "Scotchgard" formula, and no matter where you live, you are exposed. There is probable link to hypercholesterolemia, diabetes II, Adult obesity, Hypothyroidism, Low birth weight, Breast cancer, testicular cancer, and more.
For the fear based people in the world, these perflluor----- chemicals are already here and are altering our world (maybe). Already high levels have been implicated with syndromes which is why the allowable ppm (or even parts per trillion) is constantly being lowered. To filter these out of the drinking water and to force industry to quit utilizing these coatings (which increases our overall load of perfluoro---s) requires community awareness. I have articles on the ongoing lawsuits to clean areas where PFAs were produced in Kentucky-Appalachian area. The industry is attempting to develop less reactive products but several have been removed without any substitute placed on the market. Scotchgard is the one I am most familiar with.
PFOS, PFOAs and PFAs are the ubiquitous headings for the perfluoro----s. Everything new 50 years ago - they were part of it all!
OH - Ireland - this isn't a horror story, it is OUR LOVE CANAL. Just without everyone showing symptoms within 3-4 years of exposure. Mr. Home - there they are, search engine time! PFO, PFOA, and PFAs. Mr. Verdery - you seem to have a handle on some of it. The problem is we don't know the cumulative long term effects at reduced levels. Unlike lead which we now claim is unsafe at any level (in your bloodstream), we don't have 100+ years of observation to base any idea of safe upon. Who knows, maybe our grandchildren will find Alzheimer's to be less prevalent when we drop the levels to 5 ppt or lower (parts per trillion). But who knows. These are long term chemicals that we need to filter - and if possible, degrade to non-reactive molecules.