May 31, 2023—Increased exposure to certain types of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is associated with increased blood lipid levels in adults, according to a new study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The study—published in Environmental Health Perspectives on May 4—was co-authored by Binkai Liu, research assistant in the Department of Nutrition; Molin Wang, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology; and Qi Sun, associate professor in the Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology.
PFAS—called “forever chemicals” for their persistence in the environment and human bodies—are widely used in consumer products and are known to contribute to a variety of health problems. Higher levels of blood lipids may increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD). While previous studies have examined the relationship between PFAS and blood lipids, most were qualitative and were unable to summarize quantitative associations.
To fill in this knowledge gap, the researchers performed a meta-analysis of 29 studies that looked at blood levels of lipids and PFAS in adults. They found that, overall, two types of PFAS—PFOA and PFOS—were significantly associated with certain blood lipids, particularly total cholesterol, triacylglycerols, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
The findings suggest that higher levels of exposure to PFAS could lead to elevated risk of CVD, although further studies are needed to clarify the risk, according to the researchers.