New PFAS exposure scoring method could speed research on health effects

Researchers have developed a new statistical tool they say could speed up research on the health effects of exposures to toxic “forever chemicals” that are commonly found in an array of consumer products.

In a study published last week in Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers from the Mount Sinai Medical Center and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health presented a new tool that offers PFAS researchers a way to compare total exposures to PFAS across scientific studies. The tool may provide researchers a more effective method to study these persistent toxins.

PFAS, an acronym for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of thousands of chemicals commonly used in non-stick cookware, food packaging, and waterproof clothing. The chemicals have been linked to certain cancers and reproductive issues.

Studying chemical mixtures is crucial to public health research, since people are exposed to many chemicals—including many types of PFAS—at once in their daily lives. But most studies that focus on toxic chemical mixtures only study those effects in relation to specific health outcomes; for example, a study might determine a chemical’s effect on blood pressure, or heart disease. Additionally, studies might measure different types of PFAS chemicals. That makes it hard for environmental health researchers to compare data.