PFAS contamination strikes us even before we are born

The study on PFAS contamination in fetuses appeared in The Lancet Planetary Health

The “forever chemicals” damaged humans since the early stages of fetal development. Altering the metabolism and starting to accumulate in the liver. And exposing the unborn child to a greater risk of contracting pathologies such as cancer and diabetes throughout his life. The harmful and pervasive effect of PFAS contamination – perfluoroalkyl substances that are used in a multitude of applications, such as food packaging, carpets, building materials, cosmetics, pots, and waterproof clothing – it starts even before birth.

We found PFAS in the liver of fetuses and, unfortunately, the results provide clear evidence that exposure to these perennial chemicals in the uterus affects the fetus,” explains Professor Paul Fowler of Aberdeen University, co-author of the first-ever study to investigate the effects of PFAS contamination on the metabolism of fetuses. “Those exposed to higher levels of PFAS altered metabolism and liver function long before birth”.

To arrive at this result, Fowler and colleagues from the University of Örebro monitored and analyzed 78 fetuses, focusing on the dynamics of the accumulation of forever chemicals in their organisms. It has long been known that PFAS contamination can affect the risk of fetuses contracting diseases. For example, studies have shown that exposure to perfluoroalkylated substances in pregnancy is linked to the risk of underweight births and childhood obesity.

The study published in The Lancet Planetary Health is, however, the first to conduct systematic profiling of the metabolism of fetuses and to measure the levels of contamination. PFAS are called “forever chemicals” because they are not easily degradable either in the environment or in the body and tend to accumulate along the trophic chains.

We were surprised by the strong association of these chemicals with changes in fetal metabolism. It is similar to some metabolic changes that occur in adults. Specifically, we found that exposure to PFAS is linked to the modified metabolism of bile acids and lipids in fetuses,” explains Tuulia Hyötyläinen, professor of chemistry at the University of Örebro.

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