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Study finds unexpected demographic to have highest concentration of dangerous chemical in blood

These chemicals are, unsurprisingly, becoming more ubiquitous worldwide.

These chemicals are, unsurprisingly, becoming more ubiquitous worldwide.

Photo Credit: iStock

Harmful chemicals known as PFAS can be found in food, water, and items we use on a daily basis. 

Often referred to as "forever chemicals," they cannot be broken down in humans or the environment and can lead to serious health complications, such as types of cancer, birth defects, and kidney disease. 

They are so prevalent that they can now be found in human blood samples, and a study has found that one particular demographic seems to have higher levels in their bodies than others.

What's happening?

Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances, shortened to PFAS, were developed by DuPont through the 1940s, leading to the creation of Teflon, which was used on non-stick cooking utensils, waterproof clothing, and stain-repellent items. 

They have since been used in manufacturing for decades, but their impact on health became apparent when it was clear they contaminated the water supply in Parkersburg, West Virginia, near a DuPont plant, affecting the lives of workers and residents.  

Despite DuPont having to pay millions following a class-action lawsuit from people in Parkersburg who were exposed to the chemicals — and even more in further legal settlements alongside similar companies — PFAS are still present in a number of items we use today. Forever chemicals are, unsurprisingly, becoming more ubiquitous worldwide. 

And a peer-reviewed study, summarized by the Guardian, has now found that Asian Americans have 88% higher median levels of PFAS in their blood compared to non-Hispanic white people. 

Why are the levels of PFAS in Asian Americans higher?

The research didn't draw a conclusion on why levels in Asian Americans were among the highest between demographics. But study lead Shelley Liu told the Guardian of one potential reason.

Liu observed that fish is a major source of PFAS exposure, so populations that have higher levels of seafood in their diets might be more at risk. 

Notably, the study found "no statistical disparity in PFAS levels of non-Hispanic Black and white people, and Mexican Americans had lower levels than white," reports the Guardian. 

How can we limit our exposure to forever chemicals?

It's almost impossible to avoid forever chemicals entirely — because of their presence in a number of things essential to life and their inability to break down — but there are certain things we can do to avoid overexposure.

Clean Water Action suggests avoiding non-stick cookware, even if the item claims to be PFA/PFOA-free. Stainless steel or cast-iron pots and pans are a much safer alternative. 

Meanwhile, other advice includes using your own metal or glass containers for takeout food and leftovers, steering clear of microwavable popcorn bags, avoiding stain-resistant coatings on furniture, and not buying outdoor clothing made with fabrics like Scotchgard and Gore-Tex. 

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