Gestational (during pregnancy) and childhood exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) increase cardiometabolic risk, or the risk of heart diseases and metabolic disorders, later in life, according to a Brown University study published in Environment International.
Because of their ubiquitous use in many products, studies report that PFAS compounds are detectable in infants, children, and pregnant women. Pregnant women can readily transfer compounds to the developing fetus through the placenta.
Study results demonstrate high exposure to a combination of four PFAS compounds during pregnancy worsens cardiometabolic health among adolescents at age 12 years.
Although some PFAS compound manufacturing has ceased, these chemicals last forever in the environment as their chemical structure makes them resistant to breakdown. Chemical residues are persistent in food and drinking water, with over 6 million U.S. residents regularly encountering drinking water with PFAS levels above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health advisory of 70 ng/L.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies PFAS as possible carcinogens based on epidemiological studies identifying instances of kidney, ovarian, testicular, prostate, and thyroid cancer, as well as non-Hodgkin lymphoma and childhood leukemia.
PFAS are anatomically similar to fatty acids and may impair fatty acid metabolism and lipid synthesis in the liver, resulting in endocrine (hormone) disruption. Some studies demonstrate PFAS reduces the efficacy of vaccines. Although the presence of PFAS in consumer products is a concern for human health, these substances contaminate some already toxic pesticide products. Neither the manufacturer nor regulators have a good understanding of how chemical contamination occurs, and contamination may increase adverse health outcomes.