Health Impact

The health effects of PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS, and PFNA have been more widely studied than other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

Studies Show Human PFAS Exposure:

  • affect growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children

  • lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant

  • interfere with the body’s natural hormones

  • increase cholesterol levels

  • affect the immune system

  • increase the risk of cancer

  • increase the risk of thyroid disease and liver disease

Scientists are still learning about the health effects of exposures of PFAS.

For the most part, laboratory animals exposed to high doses of one or more of these PFAS have shown changes in liver, thyroid, and pancreatic function, as well as some changes in hormone levels. Because animals and humans process these chemicals differently, more research will help scientists fully understand how PFAS affect human health.

New studies point to an association with pancreatic cancer & Breast development

In June 2019 at the National PFAS Conference at Northeastern University, Dr. Linda Birnbaum, our nation’s top toxicologist, and Director of the National Institute for Environmental Health Science (NIEHS) provided summary results of one of the latest studies conducted at NIEHS’s national Toxicology Program, showing a link between PFAS exposure to pancreatic cancer in rodents. The association is so strong that Dr. Birnbaum noted that it would justify lowering the Health Advisory Level from EPAs current 70 ppt to 0.5 ppt— a reduction of more than 99%. 

According to a summary of the experiment, male rats exposed to PFOA developed both cancerous and noncancerous tumors of the pancreas.  At the lowest of three doses given in the experiment, which will be published later in 2019, 20 out of 50 rats developed the tumors.  At the higher doses, more than half of the exposed rats developed the tumors.  Of note, our local cancer review studies in the contaminated areas of Bucks and Montgomery Counties also show an increased rate of pancreatic cancer.

At the 2019 conference, Birnbaum also mentioned that the recent experiments also showed that PFAS exposure affected breast development. “There were clearly impacts on the growth of the mammary gland and problems with lactation,” she said.

Certain PFAS:

  • Cross the placenta & have been detected in human  breast milk

  • Affect growth, learning, and behavior in infants and older children

  • Associated with dyslipidemia, decreased renal function, and early puberty in children

Prenatal exposure to PFOA/PFOS associated with:

  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension/pre-eclampsia

  • Immune-related problems, such as asthma and reduced vaccine effectiveness, in early childhood.

The C8 Science Panel has determined that a probable link exists between C8 (PFOA) and the following 6 diseases:

1. Kidney Cancer

2. Testicular Cancer

3. Ulcerative Colitis

4. Thyroid Disease

5. Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (including preeclampsia)

6. Hypercholesterolemia

However we were exposed to much more than PFOA which was studied in the C8 Science panel. Read more from the C8 Science Panel:

The IARC and EPA findings

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC 2017) concluded that PFOA is possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B). The EPA (2016e, 2016f) concluded that there was suggestive evidence of the carcinogenic potential of PFOA and PFOS in humans due to increases in testicular and kidney cancer that have been observed in highly exposed humans.

Our ATSDR Cancer Review Study

According to the most recent ATSDR cancer study, the rates for bladder and pancreatic cancers in females and male childhood cancers in the Warminster Water Service Area along with male kidney cancer rates in the Warrington Water Service Area were significantly higher then the rates in the rest of the state during the study period. To learn more read the full study report here:

PA Department of Health Pilot Test Results for Our Area

Blood testing samples showed much higher levels of PFAS in area residents versus the national average. The highest blood level samples were for PFHxS sampled at 116 ug/L. Read the final study report here: