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Chemical of the week: Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)

| Administrator | Opas Blog, Good to know

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) linked to heart disease. A chemical found in 98% of Americans has been linked by research to risk factors for heart disease. Perfluorooctanoic acid is found in many household products such as -- food packaging, paint, carpet, and nonstick cookware. Research has linked Perfluorooctanoic acid exposure to unhealthy levels of cholesterol and other risk factors such as heart disease.

A new study shows using adult male and females with the highest levels of Perfluorooctanoic acid present in their blood had double the risks of having heart disease including hearts attacks and strokes. The males and females with a low amount of PFOA in their blood had lower risk factors for heart disease. The study also showed that higher levels of PFOA were linked to a 78% chance of developing peripheral artery disease.

Many of us use nonstick pans, it makes it easier to flip pancakes without them sticking and burning. But clearly, if Perfluorooctanoic acid, is found in our everyday environment in heavy amounts, how can we limit our exposure? A long time ago, I threw out two nonstick pans. I started to collect iron skillets. I noticed when cooking food in my iron skillets that they tasted so much better than when I cooked them in the nonstick pans.

Dr. Anoop Shankar, an epidemiologist at the West Virginia University School of Public Health in Morgantown continues to say: " It is possible that we are seeing something that is just a bystander and is there because of confounding associations.

Risk or no risk?

Although the study is merely a "red flag" and more research is needed, minimizing exposure to PFOA still may be prudent in the meantime, says Dr. Debabrata Mukherjee, chief of cardiovascular medicine at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in El Paso.

Mukherjee, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study, said that people whose drinking water may be contaminated by nearby factories that use PFOA could use bottled water or filtered water.

Buying bottle water to avoid PFOA risks is clearly not environment friendly and we are not clear as to if PFOA can be filtered.
Mukherjee continues to say: "avoiding nonstick cookware and other consumer products that may contain PFOA is another way for individuals to limit exposure."

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the trace amounts of PFOA found in consumer products are generally a remnant of the manufacturing process and do not appear to pose a threat to human health.
The EPA is said to be working with several large companies to aim to eliminate PFOA and related chemicals from products and factory emissions by the year 2015.

Dr. Eugene Storozynsky, a cardiologist and internist at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York says: "Even if this preliminary research is borne out, however, it's important to remember that obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, and other classic risk factors are responsible for an overwhelming majority of heart attacks."

Although the spotlight is on heart disease, exposure to PFOA has raised concerns with lab rodent tests suggesting an increased risks of tumors of the liver, testicles, mammary glands, and pancreas. PFOA has yet to be evaluated as a potential cause for cancer.

A study 2009 shows low doses of PFOA to female mice induced elevated serum leptin and insulin, suggesting adult obesity.

There are several possible ways of linking PFOA

  • In vitro studies have identified an association between PFOA and higher oxidative stress and endothelial dysfunction.
  • PFOA has been associated with the accumulation of triglycerides and lipids in the livers of rats and with inflammatory pathways.
  • Higher cholesterol levels, higher uric acid levels, insulin resistance, and components of the metabolic syndrome in humans have all been related to PFOA.
  • PFOA has been associated with gamma-glutamyltransferase, a biomarker related to liver function and oxidative stress.
  • Studies have shown an inverse association between serum PFOA and estradiol levels in women.
  • Other NHANES data have indicated a potential link between PFOA levels and thyroid dysfunction, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

While there is no way to get away from painted walls unless you live in an industrial loft, you can clearly start by eliminating Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in the house hold and take it from there.

Here is a list of items to remove from your household or avoid from buying in the future.

  • Teflon pan coatings
  • Nonstick pans
  • Stain resistant fabrics
  • Stain-resisant furniture and carpets
  • Packaged greasy and fast-foods
  • Fast food wrappers for french fries and greasy foods
  • Microwave popcorn bags
  • Water repellant jackets and clothing

Another reason to stop eating fast food

PFOA is found in the packaging for greasy foods. Lets say you go order a big hamburger and a side of fries. PFOA joins you as it's located on the wrappers of your greasy fast food. I feel like this is another reason to stop eating fast food. Not only does fast food contain a lot of calories, contains three to four times as many ingredients as if you were to make it at home, but it's a chemical meal.


5. Hines EP, White SS, Stanko JP, Gibbs-Flournoy EA, Lau C, Fenton SE (May 2009). “Phenotypic dichotomy following developmental exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in female CD-1 mice: Low doses induce elevated serum leptin and insulin, and overweight in mid-life”. Mol. Cell. Endocrinol. 304 (1-2): 97–105
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