Millions of Americans suffer from high blood pressure, a condition that can lead to heart attack or stroke if left untreated. Generally, this condition is believed to be caused primarily by diet. Yet now, an alien potential culprit has emerged: a man-made chemical found in thousands of consumer products, kitchen utensils, and even bags of microwave popcorn, that may contribute to the hypertension or high blood pressure.
These man-made “forever chemicals” – so named because of their ability to break down – are known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, abbreviated as PFAS. They are used in everything from non-stick cookware and fast food wrappers to furniture and paper packaging. Indeed, PFAS seem to be getting into our blood in part from their total ubiquity in industrial civilization.
That’s where a new report comes in. According to a study published in Hypertension, a journal of the American Heart Association, middle-aged women were more likely to have high blood pressure if they also had higher blood levels of these chemicals forever.
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To verify this, the researchers used data from 1,000 women between the ages of 45 and 56. All had normal blood pressure before entering the study and their blood levels of PFAS were measured beforehand. Participants were of various races, came from five cities in California or the northern United States, and included women who identified as white (54.5%), Japanese (16.2%), black (15.2 %) or Chinese (14.1%).
Their conclusion was that “women with higher concentrations of specific PFAS were more likely to develop high blood pressure”, specifically, “women with the highest concentrations of one-third of the seven PFAS examined had an increased risk of 71% of developing high blood pressure.
Experts estimate that 99% of Americans have at least PFAS in their blood. This means that in the study of these chemicals, research should focus on the Degree of its exposure, because it is almost impossible to have a control group without exposure. This creates understandable difficulties when attempting to create a controlled experiment assessing the impact of PFAS on human health.
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“We cannot know for sure that PFAS cause hypertension because our study is not an experiment that exposes humans to PFAS and compares them to unexposed controls,” said the lead author. study, Sung Kyun Park, Sc.D., MPH, associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health told Salon via email. “To prove whether environmental chemicals like PFAS cause health problems, we need a number of well-designed, well-conducted studies that show consistent results. Our study is its first step and we need more studies to conclude whether PFAS are causally associated with hypertension and cardiovascular disease.”
“The best way to reduce health impacts at this point is to focus on regulation to ensure we are not exposed in the first place, and to find ways to permanently eliminate them from our environment.”
Liz Costello, a doctoral student at the University of Southern California who was involved in a study linking PFAS to liver disease, praised the new report and noted that while a one-to-one observational study like this could not prove that PFAS cause hypertension, “prospective studies studies like this are the best we have without doing a controlled experiment, and they can confirm to us that there is no reverse causation (where high blood pressure could somehow affect PFAS levels in the blood) because exposure to PFAS occurred before the development of hypertension. “
When asked if there was anything consumers could do to avoid PFAS, Costello was skeptical.
“I think it’s very difficult for people to avoid PFAS on their own,” Costello explained. “Some water filters can remove them if you have contaminated water, but it’s much more difficult if PFAS are in your food packaging or household products. Some products may also advertise themselves as PFAS-free. , so if you know what to look out for you may be able to avoid some exposure.But there are thousands of PFAS out there, and you won’t find most of them on product labels.
She added: “The best way to reduce health impacts at this stage is to focus on regulation to ensure we are not exposed in the first place and to find ways to permanently eliminate them from our environment. .”
Since it is impossible for individuals to avoid exposure, Park argued that people should focus on improving chemical regulations.
“It’s more important that we regulate PFAS through legislation,” Park explained. “If we have stricter regulations, everyone can benefit. It is very important that our policy makers do something and act on PFAS exposure. We have a lot of scientific evidence that consistently tells us that reducing PFAS is really important.”
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