A novel metric that estimates our “burden,” or cumulative exposure, to a family of thousands of synthetic chemicals that we encounter in everyday life with potentially adverse health impacts, has been created by a team of researchers at Icahn Mount Sinai
In a paper published in Environmental Health Perspectives, a team of Mount Sinai researchers reported that its sophisticated tool could have distinct advantages for epidemiologists and researchers who routinely measure exposure levels to this class of chemicals, known as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), which have been associated with high cholesterol, liver damage, thyroid disease, and hormone disorders.
“There are few existing methods to quantify total exposure burden of individuals to mixtures of PFAS chemicals that are found in our everyday lives,” says lead author Shelley Liu, PhD, Associate Professor in the Center for Biostatistics, Department of Population Health Science and Policy, and a member of the Mount Sinai Institute for Exposomics and Environmental Health. “For the first time we’ve developed a PFAS burden calculator that takes into account patterns of exposure to many chemicals within the PFAS family, and not just individual chemical concentrations which current methods are focused on. As a result, this robust tool could be extremely useful for biomonitoring by regulatory agencies, and for disease and health risk assessment.”
PFAS is a class of more than 5,000 chemicals whose fluorine-carbon bond gives them the ability to repel oil and water. That construct has made them an integral part of a growing number of industrial applications and consumer products in recent decades, such as stain and water repellents, Teflon nonstick pans, paints, cleaners, and food packaging. Moreover, PFAS chemicals do not disintegrate in the environment or in our bodies. Instead, they accumulate in our surroundings and in our blood, kidneys, and liver, as underscored by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study in 2007 that found PFAS could be detected in the blood of 98 percent of the U.S. population.