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Researchers find evidence that exposure to potent chemicals can increase likelihood of early death: 'I have no words for this'

"I found myself in a big, giant trial where no one gave any consent, just like mice."

"I found myself in a big, giant trial where no one gave any consent, just like mice."

Photo Credit: iStock

A groundbreaking study has revealed that exposure to toxic PFAS chemicals, often called "forever chemicals," increases the risk of dying early from cardiovascular disease.

The findings, published in the journal Environmental Health, bring renewed urgency to the widespread use of these controversial compounds, according to the Guardian.

What's happening?

For the first time, researchers directly connected exposure to PFAS — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — to increased mortality by analyzing decades of death records from the Veneto region in northern Italy.

Residents there unknowingly drank water contaminated by a nearby PFAS production plant between 1985 and 2018. By comparing the health outcomes of tens of thousands who consumed the tainted water against neighbors who did not, scientists uncovered about 4,000 excess deaths during that period — nearly one every three days.

"I found myself in a big, giant trial where no one gave any consent, just like mice," said Laura Facciolo, a Veneto resident who drank the contaminated water. "I have no words for this."

Why are PFAS concerning?

PFAS are a class of over 15,000 chemicals used in dozens of industries to make products resistant to water, stains, and heat. While highly effective, PFAS have been linked to serious health issues like cancer, kidney disease, birth defects, decreased immunity, and liver problems.

The chemicals cause persistently high and dangerous cholesterol levels that are hard to reduce through diet and lifestyle changes alone. PFAS disrupt hormones and alter metabolism, promoting artery-clogging plaque buildup.

The trauma of having one's life upended by this environmental disaster likely contributed to circulatory disease as well.

What's being done about forever chemicals?

Growing awareness of the risks has spurred demand for safer alternatives and stricter regulations on PFAS use. In 2022, the EPA issued health advisories for PFAS in drinking water and began the process of establishing legally enforceable limits.

U.S. states are also taking action, with some, like Maine and Washington, enacting bans on PFAS in products such as food packaging and firefighting foam. Companies are increasingly phasing out PFAS and labeling products as "PFAS-free."

As an individual, you can reduce your exposure by avoiding non-stick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, and certain takeout containers. Check beauty product labels and skip those with "fluoro" or "perfluoro" ingredients. Choose a water filter that's certified to remove PFAS.

Together, we can turn the tide on "forever chemicals" and create a healthier future. It starts with being informed, supporting stronger safeguards, and making PFAS-free choices when possible.

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