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Potentially harmful ‘forever’ chemicals may be present in many industries


Photo: Kittisak Kaewchalun/iStockphoto

Washington — Exposure to cancer-causing per- and polyfluroalkyl substances, or PFAS, is common “across occupations,” according to a recent research review from NIOSH.

After consulting multiple Centers for Disease Control and Prevention databases, NIOSH researchers examined 92 papers related to occupational exposure to PFAS that were published between 1980 and 2021. Analysis shows a wide range of use of PFAS – also known as “forever chemicals” because they break down slowly over time.

Although workers in PFAS-based chemical manufacturing had the highest exposure levels, the risk was also apparent among textile mill workers, metal plating workers, office workers, fishers and barbers.

NIOSH notes that the majority of the papers analyzed measured blood tests for PFAS, with others monitoring exposure levels through air, dust and urine samples.

“This study highlights the importance of measuring exposure to PFAS, including new types, among workers in manufacturing and other work settings,” NIOSH says. “Identifying patterns of work-related exposure is critical to establishing guidelines to protect workers.”

The study was published online in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology.

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