In an article published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine on September 3, 2012, researchers reported that environmental exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (“PFOA”) is associated with both cardiovascular disease (“CVD”) and peripheral artery disease (“PAD”). Trace amounts of PFOA are detectable in the blood of greater than 98% of Americans. PFOA is a man-made chemical that is used extensively in the manufacture of many household products in the U.S., including nonstick cookware, paint, carpet, and even some food packaging.
Prior studies of exposure to PFOA have found an association between exposure to PFOA and high levels of cholesterol and other heart disease risk factors. However, the risk to human health associated with PFOA alone had not been studied.
In the recent study, the researchers looked at 1,216 people from the 1999-2003 National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey. Of the 1,216 people studied, 51.2% were women. The researchers looked at the level of PFOA in their blood serum and then divided the results into quartiles (quarters). The researchers focused on the subjects’ self-reported CVD that included coronary heart disease (“CHD”) and stroke, and the level of PAD (defined as ankle-brachial blood pressure reading of less than 0.9).
The study found that the people with the highest blood serum levels of PFOA had double the odds of having had CVD (a stroke, heart attack, or a history of heart disease) when compared to the people in the study who had the lowest blood serum levels of PFOA.
With regard to PAD, the study found that the people with the highest blood serum levels of PFOA had a 78% greater odds of having PAD.
The researchers cautioned that their findings may be influenced by unknown factors other than PFOA and that their study looked at the association between PFOA and CVD at a single point in time and therefore it cannot be concluded based on their study that the exposure to PFOA existed before CVD developed or that PFOA causes CVD. The researchers concluded that high levels of PFOA in the participants blood and their CVD co-existed for some reason.
The trace amount of PFOA that exists in household products is the result of the manufacturing process and the EPA claims that it does not appear (at this time) to be a risk to health. Nonetheless, people who wish to reduce their exposure to PFOA may decide to avoid using unfiltered water that comes from a source that is also used by manufacturers that produce consumer products using PFOA, and by not using nonstick cockware and other products that may contain PFOA. Source
While the study is not conclusive that PFOA causes CVD and/or PAD, why take the chance? We must be provided with information from which we can determine which consumer products are manufactured using PFOA and which products may contain trace amounts of PFOA after manufacture so that we may each decide the level of exposure to PFOA that we may be comfortable (or uncomfortable) with.
Perhaps all consumer products that are manufactured in the United States and consumer products imported into the United States should be required to contain a label to provide such information, just like food items are required to have labels regarding their contents and their nutritional values.
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