The Problem of PFAS
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine held a two-day workshop in September to address questions about exposure to and control of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS. These substances, some of which have not been carefully studied, are fluorinated compounds found in a wide variety of products, including firefighting foam and stain-resistant carpets. Concerns about health effects from PFAS exposure, particularly those arising from occupational exposure among firefighters and environmental exposures to communities near military bases, have been widely covered by the news media. The information below is drawn from recordings of presentations given at the National Academies workshop and from other sources.
From “PFAS Senate Hearing, Birnbaum’s Expert Scientific Testimony” in May 2019 issue of Environmental Factor, a publication of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: “PFAS … affect multiple tissues in both males and females, of multiple species, at all developmental life stages,” [said Dr. Linda Birnbaum, director of NIEHS and the National Toxicology Program]. “It’s not just cancer. It’s not just effects on the immune system, it’s not just effects, for example, on the kidney or the liver, it’s also effects on development and reproduction, and pretty much almost every system that you can think of.”

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In August, The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that a student intern and a researcher at Oak Ridge Associated Universities had devised an experiment to replicate the McCluskey incident in order to study the effects of radiation on the body. By irradiating vials of their own blood for different lengths of time, the researchers hope to generate data that clinicians and first responders can refer to following an exposure incident.

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