September 15, 2022

National Academies Recommends Testing for PFAS Exposure

A report released in August by the National Academies for the Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) recommends that people in certain occupations and who live in areas contaminated with perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) should have their blood tested to determine the extent of their exposure. Those whose PFAS exposure levels are associated with increased risk of adverse health effects should receive regular screenings, the report states.

PFAS are a group of synthetic chemicals that were in widespread use for decades in consumer products and across industries. PFAS exposure is associated with increased risk of lowered antibody response, high cholesterol, decreased infant and fetal growth, and increased risk of kidney cancer, according to the NAS report. Their persistence in the environment has earned PFAS the nickname “forever chemicals.”

Intended to inform CDC guidance to clinicians, the NAS report says that PFAS blood testing should be offered to patients who are likely to have a history of elevated exposure, a group that includes people who work in fluorochemical manufacturing, electroplating, painting, carpet installation and treatment, firefighting, and in jobs that require handling of ski wax. Others who may have elevated exposure to PFAS include food workers and others in the hospitality industry who handle food packaging as part of their jobs. People who live in areas known to be contaminated with PFAS should also be tested, according to the report.

The report can be downloaded as a free PDF from the NAS website. For more information, read the NAS news release and visit an interactive website that explores findings from the report.

Related: For a discussion of the challenges of researching and managing exposure to PFAS, read “Chasing a Changing Chemical Market” in the March 2022 Synergist. To learn about the complexities of PFAS-related regulations worldwide, read “The Challenges of PFAS” in the September 2022 Synergist.