ATLANTA — February 21, 2023 — Chemical Insights Research Institute (CIRI) of UL Research Institutes and Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health have announced upcoming research to study human exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that approximately 97 percent of Americans have detectable PFAS levels in their blood. The joint study aims to understand how this exposure occurs and the potential health consequences.
Although humans may be exposed to PFAS by ingesting food or water or breathing air contaminated with these chemicals, limited studies have focused on the use of everyday consumer and occupational products containing these chemicals and whether this presents a human exposure risk. Certain performance textiles, including consumer and occupational wearables, and those used for upholstered furniture and interior furnishings, often have PFAS chemicals added for durability and protection from soil and moisture.
According to Dr. Marilyn Black, vice president and executive director of CIRI: “There are thousands of different PFAS, commonly known as forever chemicals with widespread usage and application in our everyday products. The same properties that make PFAS chemicals attractive for consumer and commercial use contribute to their long-term persistence in human bodies.”
Limited studies have shown that fetal development and cognitive and mental capacity of young children may be altered by PFAS chemicals, and some have demonstrated weak links between PFAS exposure and the development of certain cancers. There is also mounting evidence that PFAS may negatively affect male and female reproductive health.
CIRI’s research will focus on the presence of PFAS in textiles including consumer wearables and firefighter gear and how those chemicals present a human health risk. According to Dr. Dana Barr and Dr. Barry Ryan, professors in the Rollins School of Public Health and co-principal investigators, “research emphasis will include identification of specific PFAS chemicals in the materials, their levels, and how they can potentially enter the human body. To our knowledge, this study will be among the very first to focus on exposure to PFAS through contact with textiles. Knowledge of such exposures can lead to a better understanding of the role of such materials in aggregate exposure to these ubiquitous chemical compounds.”
Emory will contribute its expertise in identification and measurement of the PFAS chemicals and CIRI will apply its human exposure chambers and techniques to evaluate inhalation, ingestion, and dermal transfer opportunities from use of the products. Insights gained will assist in understanding potential health impacts and how material design, and use, contribute to human exposure risks. This information may lead to strategic risk reduction measures.
The cutting-edge PFAS research that CIRI and the Rollins School of Public Health is conducting supports UL Research Institutes’ goal to advance safety science for societal well- being.
Posted February 28, 2023
Source: Emory University