Asian Americans Are Most Exposed to PFAS, Research Says

Asian Americans are much more exposed to PFAS, a class of thousands of synthetic compounds sometimes known as "forever chemical" substances, than other ethnic or racial groups.

According to a study published in Environmental Science and Technology, people frequently come into contact with PFAS (per and polyfluoroalkyl substances), and these exposures can potentially negatively impact health.

Mount Sinai researchers calculated an individual's overall PFAS exposure load. They considered exposure heterogeneity, such as dietary and behavioral variations, among various groups of persons who could be exposed to multiple PFAS.

In comparison to all other ethnic or racial groupings in the United States, Asian Americans were found to have considerably greater PFAS exposure, with a median exposure score that was 89% higher than for non-Hispanic whites.

This calculation of an individual's exposure load to PFAS is the first time researchers have considered complicated exposure sources of various groups of people.

The research team conducted their findings by utilizing sophisticated psychometric and data science techniques known as mixed item response theory. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a representative sample of the United States population, provided the researchers with human biomonitoring data.

This study recommends that biomonitoring and risk assessment consider an exposure metric that accounts for the fact that various groups of individuals are exposed to PFAS in multiple ways from various sources. Based on these results, studies have concluded that differences in exposure load may be caused by exposure sources such as dietary and occupational exposure.

Shelley Liu of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai said scientists discovered differences in PFAS exposure burden among demographic sub-groups if they utilized a tailored burden scoring technique.

These disparities are hidden if we use a one-size-fits-all approach to quantifying everyone's exposure burden. In order to advance precision environmental health, we need to optimally and equitably quantify exposure burden to PFAS mixtures to ensure that our exposure burden metric used is fair and informative for all people.

- Liu

In March 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency announced the first legally binding federal guidelines to control PFAS pollution in public drinking water, where the Biden administration has earmarked $9 billion for PFAS cleanup.

Nearly all Americans have measurable levels of PFAS chemicals in their blood, indicating a severe health risk. Products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water contain PFAS, which are widely used. As the study suggests, it is crucial to pay attention to what we bring to our bodies and be vigilant to stay safe.

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