UK/SWEDEN – A study published in Lancet Planetary Health by researchers from Aberdeen and Örebro Universities adds to the growing body of evidence linking per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), known as “forever chemicals,” to potential health risks.

The study unveils a disquieting finding — these persistent chemicals may be impacting humans as early as in the fetal stage of development.

PFAS, extensively used in consumer goods such as nonstick cookware and food packaging since the 1950s, have become ubiquitous in water, soil, food, and the human body. Due to their inability to break down, PFAS have raised increasing concerns, prompting scrutiny for their association with diseases like cancer and diabetes.

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (WHO’s IARC) classified key PFAS classes as carcinogenic in December 2023, emphasizing the risk through diet.

A subsequent U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) study strengthened the case, linking PFAS ingestion to thyroid cancer while warning about the relentless presence of these “forever chemicals” in food and the environment.

Fetal exposure unveiled

Breaking new ground, researchers from Örebro University and the University of Aberdeen conducted an unprecedented study, delving into the metabolic impact of PFAS on 78 human fetuses.

The chemicals were discovered in the fetal livers, indicating that exposure begins in the womb. Findings reveal altered metabolic and liver function, specifically in bile acid and lipid metabolism, with potential implications for increased risks of metabolic diseases in adulthood.

The study’s implications extend beyond the immediate concern, emphasizing that changes in fetal development can have lasting consequences for future health.

Drawing parallels to metabolic diseases like diabetes and fatty liver, the researchers underline the potential persistence of these effects, warranting a closer examination of the lasting impact of PFAS exposure on the health trajectory of individuals.

Connecting the dots, the researchers speculate on the global implications of PFAS exposure. Countries with lax regulations, such as China, witness heightened levels of childhood obesity and diabetes compared to regions with stringent controls, like the EU.

The study hypothesizes that the surge in childhood metabolic diseases could be linked to the increased exposure to PFAS and other environmental chemicals.

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