The youngsters included in the research were selected from participation in the C8 Health Project. The research was conducted by scientists at West Virginia University.
The September issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the Journal of the American Medical Association archives journals reported the latest finding relating to exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonate through drinking water and other exposure.
Perfluoroalkyl acids are used during the manufacture of fluoropolymers, which give non-stick heat resistance to cookware and breathable, waterproof properties to fabrics and upholstery. PFOA and PFOS may also result from the breakdown of compounds used as coating for commercial food packaging, factory treatments for fabrics and carpets and manufacturer pretreatment for stain-resistant clothing.
Animal studies have identified the liver as the primary organ affected by perfluoroalkyl acid exposure, with potential effects in human including alterations in cholesterol levels.
West Virginia University School of Medicine assessed serum lipid levels in 12,476 children and adolescents included in the C8 Health Project, which resulted from the settlement of a class-action lawsuit regarding PFOA contamination of the drinking water supply in the Ohio River Valley, including the Tuppers Plains-Chester and Pomeroy water systems in Ohio and Mason County water system in West Virginia.
After enrolling in 2005 or 2006, the children and teens submitted blood samples. Higher PFOA levels were associated with increased total cholesterol and LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and PFOS was associated with increased total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and HDL or “good” cholesterol. There was no association between either compound and triglyceride levels.
On average, the one-fifth of children and teens with the highest PFOA levels had total cholesterol levels 4.6 milligrams per deciliter higher and LDL cholesterol levels 3.8 milligrams per deciliter higher than the one-fifth with the lowest PFOA levels. In addition, there was an average difference of 8.5 milligrams per deciliter in total cholesterol levels and 5.8 milligrams per deciliter in LDL cholesterol levels between the one-fifth of participants with the highest and lowest PFOS levels.
“PFOA and PFOS specifically, and possibly perfluoroalkyl acids as a general class, appear to be associated with serum lipids, and the association seems to exist at levels of PFOA and PFOS exposure that are in the range characterized by nationally representative studies.”
The design of the study limits cause-and-effect interpretations, but the results suggest the association between PFOA and PFOS and elevated cholesterol levels warrant further study, the authors note, “Should the association prove to be etiologic, the cumulative effects of such an elevation in cholesterol on long-term cardiovascular health are unclear given the early age at which these associations were observed.”