July 19, 2024

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The Science Behind AFFF Exposure and Hormonal Disruption

The Science Behind AFFF Exposure and Hormonal Disruption

A type of firefighting foam known as aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) is frequently used to put out flammable liquid fires. Although useful for its intended use, AFFF contains per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which have serious health risks. 

According to the latest research, exposure to PFAS can cause a number of health problems, including major hormonal disruptions. This can manifest as concerning results like dysregulated reproductive processes and faulty development of babies.

This blog post explores the mechanisms of AFFF exposure, its legal disputes, and the biochemical pathways involved in hormone disruption. Additionally, it discusses the potential development of endocrinological conditions and suggests protective measures to reduce exposure risks.

How Does AFFF Get Into People’s Lives?

The two main routes through which AFFF exposure occurs are occupational and environmental. The people most at risk are firefighters and military personnel who deal with this firefighting foam regularly. Compared to the general population, firefighters exposed to AFFF have higher levels of PFOS and PFHxS. The levels have risen with years of job exposure. 

Meanwhile, water supplies in communities close to military bases or firefighting training facilities have become contaminated, as reported by TruLaw. Certain household items, such as non-stick cookware and stain-resistant fabrics, can cause domestic exposure to PFAS. Further,  living close to contaminated sites increases safety concerns due to the persistence of PFAS in the environment. Over time, such chemicals may pose health risks to humans as they build up in the body.

The widespread contamination and associated health risks have prompted a high-profile AFFF lawsuit against its manufacturers. Firefighters, military personnel, and impacted communities are plaintiffs in these cases. They contend that although the manufacturers were aware of the health risks, they did not sufficiently disclose them. 

How Does AFFF Exposure Affect Our Hormones?

Think of PFAS in AFFF as imposters who mislead or supplant vital messengers, throwing off our body’s hormonal balance. This disruption upsets the hormone-controlling endocrine system of our body. 

They bind to blood proteins and interfere with the normal transport of hormones, just like natural hormones would. Receptors may be incorrectly activated or blocked by PFAS, leading to imbalances. They also influence metabolism and hormone production, which can result in either an excess or a shortage of hormones. 

Endocrinological Disorders Resulting from Exposure to AFFF

Hormonal imbalances brought on by AFFF exposure can cause a number of endocrinological disorders, including cancer.

Thyroid Disorders and Cancer

While AFFF has long been recognized as a carcinogen, there is only recent evidence linking AFFF exposure to thyroid cancer. PFAS may also cause hypo- or hyperthyroidism by interfering with thyroid function.

A recent study found that doubling perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) levels correlate with a 56% increase in thyroid cancer diagnosis rates. Additionally, there is a strong correlation between a woman’s prior cancer diagnosis and her exposure to specific PFAS chemicals.

Reproductive Problems

Men and women may experience infertility problems as a result of exposure to PFAS. Eventually, this may cause elevated blood pressure and reduced fertility in pregnant women, among other reproductive toxicities. 

A recent study found a nearly threefold increase in the risk of intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP). This risk escalates with each logarithmic increase in serum PFOA during pregnancy.

Developmental Problems in Children

Children exposed to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) may face developmental problems as well as a weakened immune system. Research has demonstrated that PFAS exposure in infancy can impact fetal neurodevelopment.

Metabolic Disorders

Coming into contact with PFAS has been linked to glucose intolerance and obesity. It is now known that exposure to PFAS causes type 2 diabetes. Additionally, research from 2023 links PFAS exposure to increased levels of total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), and low-density lipoprotein (LDL).

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are PFAS chemicals considered “forever chemicals”?

PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they can be found in the environment and the human body for extended periods. This persistence raises serious concerns about their long-term health effects.

How can I tell if my water is contaminated with PFAS?

Check with your local water authority for testing results, or request testing if you live in high-risk areas. Water quality testing resources are also offered by numerous environmental organizations.

Is it possible to treat or reverse PFAS exposure?

As of now, there is no known way to reverse exposure to PFAS, but reducing additional exposure is essential. Regular health check-ups can help manage any conditions that arise from PFAS exposure.

Can people take measures to reduce their exposure to PFAS?

Steer clear of popular home goods that are known to contain PFAS. Reduce the amount of PFAS in your drinking water by filtering it through reverse osmosis or activated carbon systems.

In conclusion, to keep yourself safe and healthy, it is important to understand the science behind AFFF exposure and its hormonal disruption. Increased awareness and continuous legal actions drive the need for safer alternatives to firefighting methods and establish more accountability.

About Author

Hourly Magazine

Hourly Magazine, from the bustling US city, is a talented storyteller. With a creative writing degree and imagination, Hourly Magazine writers tackle complex social topics and human emotions.

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