Is PFAS Exposure Toxic To The Immune System?RSS
Christina Liu, B.S. | Hydroviv's Science Team
PFAS contamination in the environment is frighteningly widespread. PFAS have been found in the surface water in some of the most remote places on Earth and is found in the drinking water of over 200 million Americans. Recently conducted research has found that exposure to PFAS chemicals could be toxic to the immune system. The research suggests that vaccines may be less effective in people with higher levels of PFAS. In addition, people with elevated levels of PFBA, (a specific type of PFAS which accumulates in the lungs), may be at risk of more serious COVID-19 infections.
PFAS and The Immune System --Research Timeline
- 2008: Research suggested that PFOS in mice could suppress the immune system.
- 2012: Scientists observed a correlation between the level of PFAS in the blood and a diminished immune response to vaccines in children.
- 2015: Researchers discovered that different types of PFAS were detected in the blood of nearly all the people tested, and their exposure to PFAS was related to changes in thyroid function.
- 2016: Researchers looked at the antibody response to a diphtheria and tetanus booster vaccination correlated with PFAS levels in the blood. The results suggests that higher blood PFAS levels may suppress the immune response from the vaccine.
- 2019: In a Norwegian study published in 2019, PFAS levels were measured in the blood of pregnant mothers. They monitored the children’s health after birth to determine whether there was a correlation between maternal PFAS levels during pregnancy and an increase in the incidence of the children contracting common infectious diseases. By age 3, children with higher exposure to 4 different types of PFAS (PFOA, PFOS, PFHxS and PFNA) had higher rates of bronchitis or pneumonia. Nearly 1000 of the children in this study continued to be monitored at age 7, and the researchers observed that exposure to PFOA and another PFAS called perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS) was associated with higher rates of diarrhea or gastric flu.
PFAS and COVID-19Dr. Phillipe Grandjean, of the Harvard School of Public Health, together with his colleagues, conducted a study in 2019 to determine whether PFAS chemicals correlated to COVID-19 outcomes. The researchers studied 323 COVID patients, and tested blood samples for 5 different types of PFAS compounds.
They observed the following:
- PFBA accumulates in the lungs.
- Patients with higher blood levels of PFBA (perfluorobutanoic acid) were associated with more severe COVID-19 infections.
- Patients with high PFBA levels in the blood were significantly more likely to be hospitalized, enter intensive care, and dying from COVID-19 than people with low PFBA levels.
Dr. Grandjean said that PFAS chemicals are immunotoxic and therefore can ‘very likely interfere with the Covid-19 infection’, and that studies involving the mechanism of PFAS affecting the immune system are ongoing. He also cautions that PFAS levels in the blood may affect the effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines, but studies have not been conducted yet.
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