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COVID-19 ISO Insights

High PFAS exposure linked to Increased COVID-19 Risks

April 19, 2022

By Katie Joy Sanchez

Key Takeaway: New research supports a theory that exposure to Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) may hinder the human body’s ability to fight off Covid-19. There are calls for more research on this topic given the known connection between PFAS and the immune system.

According to The Guardian, studies have found that PFAS are already in the blood streams of 97% of the American population. Due to the highly effective nature of these compounds in terms of resistance to oil and water, among other properties, they have been actively used across various industries. However, due to their chemical structure, these substances can remain in the body for years if not decades (read more here).

According to the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) research conducted on PFAS chemicals to date “reveals possible links between human exposures to PFAS and adverse health outcomes…These outcomes include: “Altered metabolism, fertility, reduced fetal growth and increased risk of being overweight or obese, and reduced ability of the immune system to fight infections.”

Per The Guardian, a link was found between high levels of PFAS and more severe Covid19 symptoms. Further, studies of these chemicals prior to the pandemic indicated an impact on vaccine efficacy, in both children and adults.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, several studies investigating the potential impact that high PFAS levels may have on Covid have been conducted. Two studies, one in Sweden and one in China, checked infection rates compared to levels of PFAS exposure. In both studies, researchers found a higher risk of Covid-19 infection for residents that tested with higher levels of PFAS. Another study conducted in Italy looked for a connection between exposure to high levels of PFAS and morbidity rates.

Per an article about a recent study (full text here) from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the likely reason these chemicals are immunotoxic is due to their ability to impact the immune system. According to the article, researchers tested blood samples for known immunotoxic PFAS compounds, including PFBA. A clear association was reportedly found between PFBA and more severe symptoms of Covid-19; per the article PFBA is known by experts to accumulate in the lungs. Given the level of impact the virus has on the respiratory system, per the article, experts are calling for public health officials to take “special considerations” for areas that are historically known for being highly affected by PFAS.

At Least One Home PFAS Test Available

Of interest, according to JD Supra, it seems one company has developed a blood test for PFAS that can be used at home which, per the company's website, only requires a finger prick; per a related article, the company claims to have 99 percent confidence in positive or negative detection for up to 40 PFAS compounds. While the results do not directly correlate to disease, they do allow the general public to test themselves at different times to check their levels of exposure. By being aware of this new development and the connection of more severe COVID-19 symptoms to PFAS, the general public will now be able to take yet a further level of precautions when considering ways to protect their health.

Some PFAS Studies

Pfas Studies

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7605584/

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8535293/

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7972714/

4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412021001495

5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7967461/

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