Exposure to Perfluoroalkyl Acids Increase Cholesterol in Children
Cooking with excess fats, such as butter and lard, is linked to dyslipidemia (abnormal cholesterol). To reduce the amount of fat consumed, many cooks use non-stick pots and pans, but ironically, the chemicals used to make the non-stick coating has now also been associated with higher blood cholesterol levels in children.
PFAA Compounds Linked to to Cholesterol and Other Health Concerns
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) are a part of a family of manmade compounds called perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAA) which are used in many consumer products such as food packaging, microwave popcorn, waterproof fabric, and in non-stick cookware. Because of their widespread use, PFOA and PFOS are detected in almost all samples of human serum, according to a recent national survey.
Researchers from the West Virginia University School of Medicine assessed blood lipid levels in 12,476 children and teens that were part of a health project that began after a lawsuit was settled in 2002 when PFOA, a liver toxicant and carcinogen in animals, was found in a mid-Ohio River Valley water supply. Blood samples were taken in the kids, average age 11, between 2005 and 2006.
The average PFOA concentration in the blood of the study participants was found to be 69.2 ng/mL, above the national average. PFOS concentrations were found to be around 22.7 ng/mL.
Kids with the highest PFOA levels had both higher total cholesterol readings and higher LDL (bad) cholesterol levels when compared with those with the lowest PFOA levels. Those in the upper quintile had total cholesterol 4.6 mg/dL higher and LDL cholesterol levels 3.8 mg/dL higher than those in the lowest fifth.
Those with the highest levels of PFOS had total cholesterol levels 8.5 mg/dL higher than those with the lowest amounts. PFOS appeared to also increase HDL (good) cholesterol, but neither compound appeared to affect triglyceride levels.
High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death in the United States.
Animal studies have found that the liver is the primary organ affected by perfluoroalkyl acid exposure. About 80% of the body’s cholesterol is produced in the liver.
"PFOA and PFOS specifically, and possibly perfluoroalkyl acids as a general class, appear to be associated with serum lipids, and the association seems to exist at levels of PFOA and PFOS exposure that are in the range characterized by nationally representative studies," the authors of the study said.
According to study author Stephanie J. Frisbee MSc, both chemicals are being phased out in the United States and replaced by other compounds.
Frisbee S, et al "Perfluorooctanoic acid, perfluorooctanesulfonate, and serum lipids in children and adolescents" Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2010; 164: 860-869.