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NTP Warns PFOA Hazardous to the Human Immune System

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A series of studies by what was called the “C8 Science Panel” which began in 2006 found that perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)—or “C8” as it’s sometimes called—was linked with high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and testicular and kidney cancer.

Now, in a new report by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), scientists are again warning that the chemical—which has been found at levels higher than those recommended by the Environmental Protection Association (EPA) in the water supply of several Northeastern communities—may also be hazardous to the human immune system, potentially causing hypersensitivity reactions.

NTP Concludes that PFOA Negatively Affects the Immune System

According to the review released on June 6, 2016, emissions of both PFOA and its close cousin, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), have been dramatically reduced, but both persist and remain widespread in the U.S. population.

A national health examination survey showed that both PFOA and PFOS were present in all blood samples tested for perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), and remain at the highest concentrations of all PFCs.

Since previous studies suggested PFOA and PFOS were associated with immunotoxicity, the NTP decided to evaluate the evidence available so far to see if the chemicals could harm the immune system. They looked at 33 human studies, 93 animal studies, and 27 laboratory studies to examine the data.

Results showed that “PFOA is presumed to be an immune hazard to humans based on two separate lines of evidence:”

  1. Animal and human studies showed that PFOA suppressed the immune response
  2. Animal and human studies showed that PFOA increased hypersensitivity-related outcomes

Researchers added that though these two connections had the most significant levels of evidence behind them, there was additional, albeit, weaker evidence that PFOA could reduce resistance to infectious disease, and could potentially increase autoimmune diseases. They recommended more studies be conducted on these issues.

PFOA Persistent in the Environment

Both PFOA and PFOS have been widely used over the past 50 years in commercial and industrial applications. The chemicals helped make food packaging, lubricants, water-resistant and non-stick coatings (like Teflon), and fire-fighting foams. They don’t degrade under typical environmental conditions, and once in surface water, have half-lives of 41 (PFOS) and 92 (PFOA) years respectively.

They also last a long time in the human body, from two to eight years after exposure.

Most manufacturers, through voluntary agreements, have phased out the use of these toxic chemicals, which is why emissions have been reduced. Unfortunately, because the chemicals are able to persist for so long in the environment where they can contaminate drinking water, they remain a public health concern.

Meanwhile, a U.S. House committee is investigating the contamination crisis in the Northeast, which started in Hoosick Falls, New York, and was believed to originate from the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics plant (formerly owned by Honeywell International). The committee sent letters to Governor Andrew Cuomo and to the EPA releasing information related to the contamination, in an effort to learn why the EPA and state and county officials were slow to take meaningful action to protect the public.

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  1. Jim Harter says:
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    The state of NY has failed to do its job
    it appears that my home town that bragged about the best water in the state. May not be able to recover… Real sad!