May 30, 2024

For the first time, researchers have formally shown that exposure to toxic PFAS increases the likelihood of death from cardiovascular disease, adding a new level of concern to the controversial chemical’s widespread use.

The findings are particularly significant because it is difficult to prove an association with death from chemical exposure, but researchers were able to establish it by reviewing death records from northern Italy’s Veneto region, where many residents have been drinking highly contaminated water for decades is with PFAS, also called “forever”. chemicals”.

Records further showed an increased likelihood of death from various cancers, but stopped short of establishing a formal association due to other factors.

“This is the first time anyone has found strong evidence of an association of PFAS exposure and cardiovascular mortality,” said Annibale Biggeri, the peer-reviewed study’s lead author and a researcher at the University of Padua.

PFAS is a class of 15,000 chemicals used across dozens of industries to make products resistant to water, stains and heat. Although the compounds are highly effective, previous research has linked them to cancer, kidney disease, birth defects, reduced immunity, liver problems and a range of other serious illnesses.

Veneto’s drinking water was widely infected by a PFAS production plant between 1985 and 2018. Researchers first found an excess of about 4,000 deaths during this period, or nearly three each month.

Part of the region was supplied with water from another source, giving researchers the opportunity to compare records for tens of thousands of people who drank contaminated water and lived near those who did not.

Although PFAS can affect the cardiovascular system in various ways, it is largely a problem because it produces persistently high and dangerous levels of cholesterol. The levels are difficult to control because they are not caused by dietary or lifestyle choices that can be addressed with adjustments, but hormonal changes that affect metabolism and the body’s ability to control plaque in arteries.

The study’s authors suspect that post-traumatic stress disorder caused by the environmental disaster, which changed lives across the region, may also contribute to circulatory disease.

The evidence of a jump in kidney cancer was also “very clear”, Biggeri said. In the study’s first five years, 16 cases were recorded, while 65 were recorded in the last five years. It also found increased levels of testicular cancer during certain periods.

The records “clearly showed” that earlier life exposures led to higher rates of death, except for women who had multiple children. Previous research found levels were higher in women with only one child.

The chemicals accumulate in placentas and are passed on to children during pregnancy, lowering levels in the body. Death rates among women who were fertile were generally lower, but increased in older women.

The chemicals will be passed on to children for generations, said Laura Facciolo, a resident of Veneto who drank contaminated water. She said the findings highlight the need to ban PFAS, and the disaster’s injustice.

“I found myself in a big giant trial where nobody gave any consent, just like mice,” she said. “I have no words for this.”

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