Self-testing for “forever chemicals”: A new study shows promise

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The Problem with PFAS

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS for short, are everywhere. They’re in many everyday products, from non-stick pans to stain-resistant carpets.

The trouble is, they’re also known as “forever chemicals”. That’s because PFAS stick around in the environment and our bodies for a long time. And that can be harmful.

For people exposed to high levels of PFAS, the health risks are real. These chemicals can damage our liver, kidneys, and thyroid.

They can also hurt our immune system and reproductive health, and even increase the risk of certain cancers.

Early detection is important, especially for those with high exposure, such as individuals drinking contaminated water or working in certain industries.

PFAS can also cross the placenta and be found in breast milk, affecting infants and children. Pregnant women are another vulnerable group.

PFAS exposure has been linked to high cholesterol, some cancers, infertility, and low birth weight in babies.

With PFAS found in the drinking water of millions of Americans, it’s a serious concern. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is even proposing enforceable drinking water standards for six types of PFAS.

The Michigan State University Study on PFAS Testing

A new study from Michigan State University (MSU) offers hope for those at risk. This study explores an easier way for people to check their own blood for PFAS levels.

The researchers believe this could improve access to testing, and help detect health problems earlier.

The study, led by assistant professor Courtney Carignan, looked at 53 people who had previously been exposed to PFAS in their drinking water.

The participants gave blood samples in two ways. First, they had a regular blood draw. Then, they pricked their own finger and collected a small amount of blood on a new type of sampler.

The team found similar PFAS levels using both methods. They also discovered that the whole-blood approach could potentially offer a fuller picture of the PFAS in our bodies.

Caution with the New Approach

While the new method is promising, it comes with a few words of caution. Users need to make sure they’re collecting the blood correctly.

Also, they need to use sensitive analytical methods to measure PFAS levels. Another thing to keep in mind is the comparison between whole blood and serum levels.

Simply multiplying the whole-blood concentration by two provides a rough estimate of the serum equivalent.

Despite these considerations, the researchers are hopeful. The ability for people to easily test their own blood for PFAS could have a big impact.

It could not only open up new research opportunities but also allow the general public to understand their exposure levels without having to be part of a formal study.

It’s crucial to remember that this method needs further testing before it can be broadly used in PFAS exposure and health research.

Study Contributors

Contributors to this study include Courtney Carignan and Rachel Bauer of MSU; Andrew Patterson, Thep Phomsopha, and Eric Redman of Eurofins Environment Testing; Heather Stapleton of Duke University; and Christopher Higgins of the Colorado School of Mines.

If you care about diabetes, please read studies that pomace olive oil could help lower blood cholesterol, and honey could help control blood sugar.

For more information about health, please see recent studies that blueberries strongly benefit people with metabolic syndrome, and results showing widely used diabetes drug metformin may reduce cognitive decline.

The study was published in Environmental Science & Technology.

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