NYU Langone researchers tie exposure to 'forever chemicals' to 13 medical conditions

Exposure to a group of chemicals found in many household items may be tied to infertility, diabetes and other medical conditions, according to a new study that involved almost 5,000 Americans.

Researchers from New York City-based NYU Langone Health looked at diseases tied to exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — a group of more than 4,700 manmade chemicals commonly known as PFAS that have for decades been detected in millions of Americans' blood. The researchers used blood samples obtained from adults and children who participated in the 2018 National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey to determine how many people were likely exposed to PFAS chemicals. They then analyzed dozens of studies over the past decade focused on disease connected to PFAS exposure.

The findings, published July 26 in Exposure and Health, linked low-level PFAS exposure to low birth weight, childhood and adult obesity, type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, couple infertility, kidney cancer, testicular cancer, breast cancer, hypothyroidism, and pneumonia. 

Low birth weight, childhood obesity, kidney cancer, testicular cancer and hypothyroidism had the strongest links to PFAS exposure. The research team also estimated the national economic cost of medical bills and lost worker productivity using models from earlier investigations. The economic burden estimates in 2018 ranged from $5.52 billion when limited to the five conditions with the strongest exposure links and reached as high as $63 billion when including all 13 diseases. 

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