High Blood Pressure Found In 47% of Women With High Levels of ‘Forever Chemicals’, Study Finds

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New research finds perfluoroalkyls and polyfluoroalkyls (PFAS) ‘forever chemicals’ increase the risk of high blood pressure for women. But new research also shows common household items may help destroy these toxins.

Women between the ages of 45 and 56 with the highest concentrations of PFAS were 71 percent more likely to develop high blood pressure than those with lower levels, a new study published in the journal Hypertension, finds.

The findings

“Obesity, stress and smoking are well-known risk factors for high blood pressure, and PFAS may be as important as or even more important than these factors because PFAS are widespread, and almost all people are exposed to PFAS,” study author Sung Kyun Park, an associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, said in a statement.

The researchers looked at blood levels of seven types of PFAS in more than 1,000 women over the course of 18 years. The women all had normal blood pressure at the start of the study. Over the course of the study, 470 women (47 percent) developed high blood pressure. The women with the highest levels of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) or acetic acid (EtFOSAA, a PFOS precursor) saw a 42 increased risk of developing high blood pressure. Women with high concentrations of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) had a 47 percent increased risk.

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PFAS are found in food, water, air, and soil. They’re widely used in household items including food packaging, nonstick cookware, body care products and cosmetics, among other items. Recent studies found them prevalent in cosmetics marketed as long-lasting.

Numerous studies have pointed to the health risks of PFAS exposure, linking the chemicals to heart disease and high cholesterol, among other issues. But scientists are still unclear about how they impact blood pressure.

“PFAS are very similar to the building blocks of fats, so PFAS can disrupt the action of body’s metabolism and blood pressure control,” Park said.

The researchers call for policy changes to reduce exposure risks, namely through PFAS being discharged into waterways.

“The benefit of reducing the population exposure to PFAS and potential preventions of high blood pressure and other health conditions would be huge,” Park said.

PFAS removal

The study comes as other research finds iodine in salt, sulfite, a common food preservative, and ultraviolet light can break down PFAS in “hours.” The research was published in March in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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According to the researchers, a combination of iodine and sulfite made it easier to break down the chain of carbon atoms in PFAS chemicals. It’s not something you can do at home, though; it involves exposing a solution of PFAS mixed with iodine and sulfite to UV radiation. After 24 hours, less than one percent of a stubborn type of PFAS known as PFBS remained.

But the researchers say it shows potential for helping to remove it from waste to avoid secondary contamination risks. The researchers are now working with an engineering company to expand their process to help remove concentrated levels of PFAS from waste streams.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova via Pexels