GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine has released a new cumulative study with the latest confirmed research on PFAS and new recommendations for treatment and reducing exposures.
According to the report, there are now more than 12,000 different compounds of PFAS — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. And as of October 2021, there are an estimated 2,854 confirmed sites with PFAS pollution in the United States, covering all 50 states and two American territories.
First invented in the 1940s, the man-made chemical compounds have been used in thousands of everyday products, mostly as a way to prevent items from absorbing moisture. PFAS was found in items ranging from Scotchgard and nonstick pans to lipstick, dental floss and carpet.
While chemical companies including 3M and DuPont first learned that PFAS compounds build up in the bloodstream as far back as the 1950s, little was done to stop using the chemical compounds until recent years. 3M announced in 2000 that it would stop manufacturing products using PFAS. It wasn’t until 2005 that an advisory panel for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined PFAS is a likely human carcinogen, meaning it can lead to cancers.
The NASEM study released Thursday broke down how much is known about the health effects caused by PFAS. According to the study, the NASEM believes there is sufficient evidence to say the chemical compounds cause a decreased antibody response in both kids and adults and stunts growth in infants and fetuses. It also definitively increases the threat of kidney cancer in adults and high cholesterol.
Researchers also determined that there is limited evidence that PFAS leads to increased risks of breast cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, liver complications and pregnancy-induced hypertension.
In the wake of this latest research, the NASEM listed several new recommendations for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Among them, the NASEM calls for updated instructions for doctors and local health departments to educate people on possible PFAS exposure.
The agency also calls for agencies to remove obstacles and expand screening and blood testing for people suspected of elevated PFAS exposures.
A bill was introduced in the Senate last month calling for the NASEM to lead a PFAS consensus study uniting any federal agency that deals with chemical pollution to shape future decisions on PFAS pollution.