Daily exposure to PFAS could cost Americans billions in healthcare costs

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A recent study published in the scientific journal Exposure and Health suggests that Americans spend billions of dollars a year to address health problems caused by exposure to so-called eternal chemicals.

The research, led by NYU Grossman School of Medicine, links nearly $63 billion in healthcare costs to 13 conditions that could be caused or exacerbated by exposure to PFAS.

PFAS are a group of over 100 chemicals that do not break down easily in the environment; perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) are most commonly found in common materials. The chemicals are found in many everyday products, such as water-resistant food wraps, non-stick pans and waterproof jackets.

Maine doctors have encountered patients across the state who are increasingly concerned about the effects of chemicals on their bodies, despite the elusive links between PFAS exposure and long-term health problems.

Dr Rachel Criswell, a pediatrician at Skowhegan Family Medicine who has conducted research on exposure through breast milk, said this topic has become more common, especially for patients in Fairfield, where the federal government will review the risks for health related to the spread of sludge as fertilizer in the city.

Three of the most commonly detected PFAS — often called “eternal chemicals” because they break down slowly in the environment — have been linked to an enzyme that indicates non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a study from the Keck School of Medicine from the University of Southern California. recently published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Research led by Grossman, which surveyed a group of approximately 5,000 Americans, suggests that long-term exposure to PFAS may also contribute to or exacerbate other conditions, such as low birth weight, endometriosis , type 2 diabetes in adulthood and infertility in both men. and women.

A conservative estimate links about $5.5 billion in health care costs per year to manage or treat symptoms related to PFAS exposure, while an extremely aggressive estimate attributes about $62.6 billion in costs health care costs to exposure to PFAS.

“Our results strongly support the recent decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to lower the acceptable level of these substances in water,” lead author Leonardo Trasande told The New Atlas. “Based on our estimates, the cost of eradicating the contamination and replacing this class of chemicals with safer alternatives is ultimately justified given the enormous economic and medical risks associated with their persistence in the environment. .”

The EPA recently issued a non-binding health advisory for four of the most common per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances that would lower drinking water standards from 70 parts per trillion to four parts per quadrillion, a level 17,500 times lower. However, because this is a health advisory, there has been no legal precedent to spur national initiatives to mitigate the buildup of PFAS in the environment.

Recently, researchers at Stockholm University found that almost all of the world’s rainwater contains PFAS at a level well above the EPA’s safe drinking standard.

A July report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine suggests that anyone with a history of lifelong chemical exposure should be tested for toxin levels in their blood. Testing is not readily available in much of Maine at this time.

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