Middle-aged women with higher blood concentrations of common synthetic chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also called “forever chemicals” and found in water, soil, air and food, were at greater risk of developing high blood pressure, compared to their peers who had lower levels of these substances, according to new research published today in Hypertension, an American Heart Association journal.
PFAS, are a class of synthetic chemicals and according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there are thousands of different PFAS that are used in everyday household items, such as certain shampoo, dental floss, cosmetics, non-stick cookware, food packaging, stain-resistant coatings for carpeting, upholstery and clothing. The “forever chemicals” also enter the food system through fish caught in PFAS-contaminated water and dairy products from cows exposed to PFAS through fertilizers on farms, for example.
Even at low levels in the blood, research has shown PFAS can have detrimental health effects. Some PFAS have been linked to cardiovascular risk, including endothelial dysfunction (impaired blood vessel function), oxidative stress and elevated cholesterol. However, no previous studies have evaluated whether PFAS levels affect blood pressure control among middle-aged women.
Previously published data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) demonstrates how common PFAS exposure is, as nearly all Americans have detectable concentrations of at least one PFAS in their blood.
Using data from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation-Multi-Pollutant Study (SWAN-MPS), a prospective study of women from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds at midlife, researchers examined blood concentrations of specific PFAS and the risk of high blood pressure.