Risks of PFASs known decades before research revealed, says expert

Research on the dangerous health effects of perfluorinated alkylate substances (PFASs)—chemicals widely used in everything from carpets and nonstick cookware to firefighting foams—was kept hidden for decades, according to a new editorial by Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

He wrote that industry-sponsored animal studies documented PFAS toxicity in 1978 but were not shared with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency until 2000. This delay prevented the development of proper guidelines for safe levels of the chemicals in drinking water, according to Grandjean.

The editorial was published in Environmental Health on July 31, 2018.

PFAS have been linked to a range of health problems, including testicular and kidney cancers, decreased birth weight, and thyroid disease. While most companies have stopped producing two forms of PFASs— perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS)—the chemicals persist in drinking water systems, and new forms of PFASs are raising concerns.

“It’s frustrating to be an environmental health researcher and spend years and years to characterize the exposures and the adverse health effects of these compounds, only to discover that most of that information was already known but had been kept secret,” Grandjean told Environmental Health News.

Read Environmental Health News article: Hidden studies from decades ago could have curbed PFAS problem: Scientist

Learn more

Health risks of widely used chemicals may be underestimated (Harvard Chan School news)

PFASs, chemicals commonly found in environment, may interfere with body weight regulation (Harvard Chan School press release)