A recent study published in the scientific journal Exposure and Health shows that Americans spend billions of dollars a year to respond to health problems caused by exposure to so-called perennial chemicals.
The research, conducted by New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, linked nearly $63 billion in health care costs to 13 conditions that can be caused or worsened by PFAS exposure.
PFAS are a group of more than 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 waterproof food packaging, non-stick pans and waterproof jackets.
Doctors in Maine have faced patients across the state who are increasingly concerned about the chemicals’ effects on their bodies, despite elusive links between PFAS exposure and long-term health problems.
Dr. Rachel Criswell, a pediatrician at Skowhegan Family Medicine who conducted the breast milk exposure study, said the topic has become more common, especially for patients in Fairfield, where the federal government will review the health risks associated with the spread. of sludge as fertilizer in the city.
Three of the most commonly detected PFASs — often called “permanent chemicals” because they break down slowly in the environment — are linked to an enzyme that indicates non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a study from the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine published in Environmental Health Perspectives recently found.
The 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 diseases, such as low birth weight, endometriosis, type 2 diabetes in adulthood and infertility in both men and women.
A conservative estimate associates approximately $5.5 billion in annual health care costs for managing or treating symptoms related to PFAS exposure, while an extremely aggressive estimate attributes approximately $62.6 billion in annual health care costs to PFAS exposure.
“Our results strongly support the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent decision to lower the safe tolerable level of these substances in water,” senior author Leonardo Trasande told New Atlas. “Based on our assessments, 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 of allowing them to persist in the environment.”
The EPA recently issued non-binding health advisories for four of the most common per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances that would reduce drinking water standards from 70 parts per trillion to four parts per quadrillion, a level 17,500 times lower. However, being a health board, there has been no legal precedent to spur national initiatives to mitigate the build-up of PFAS in the environment.
Recently, researchers at Stockholm University found that nearly all of the world’s rainwater contains PFAS at a level far higher than the EPA’s safe drinking standard.
A July report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine suggests that anyone with a history of exposure to perennial chemicals should be tested for levels of toxins in their blood. The tests are not readily available in much of Maine at this time.