Health risks of widely used chemicals may be underestimated

A group of chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs—used in everything from carpets to nonstick cookware to firefighting foams—may pose much greater health risks than previously thought.

A recent review from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlines a host of health effects associated with PFAS exposure, including cancer, liver damage, decreased fertility, and increased risk of asthma and thyroid disease. A June 20, 2018 ProPublica article noted that the CDC report recommends an exposure limit for one PFAS compound that is 10 times lower than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s current limit.

Elsie Sunderland, associate professor of environmental science and engineering in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told ProPublica that scientists are just beginning to understand the effects of the more than 4,000 different types of PFASs. She also noted that the chemical industry routinely uses new compounds to replace old ones. “People call it chemical whack-a-mole,” she said.

Read the ProPublica article: Suppressed Study: The EPA Underestimated Dangers of Widespread Chemicals

Learn more

Unsafe levels of toxic chemicals found in drinking water for six million Americans (Harvard Chan School release)

New Superfund Center launched to investigate industrial chemicals (Harvard Chan School news)