Yale School of Public Health epidemiologist Zeyan Liew and his fellow researchers have identified per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as a risk factor for miscarriage.
These “forever chemicals” are so called because of their long-term staying power in the human body. The chemicals can survive and collect for decades—both in people and in the environment.
PFAS enjoy a widespread use in the manufacturing of non-stick cookware, clothing, fire-fighting foam, cleaning products, food packaging, waterproof products, and in various industrial processes to such a degree that they have long since entered drinking water sources across the globe. This proliferation of the substances, combined with their hardy longevity, has elevated their presence to the point where they are nearly ubiquitous in humans.
Environmental Health Perspectives published results from the Danish National Birth Cohort (DNBC). This study of more than 100,000 women compared subjects who miscarried in their second trimester with another group of subjects who successfully carried their pregnancies to term. By checking these women against their blood test results, the DNBC found that study participants with the greatest levels of PFAS in their blood experienced double the risk of miscarriage as participants with the lowest PFAS blood levels.
Noting that the study results can confirm only association—and not causation—Liew still cautions pregnant women to focus on preventing exposure to PFAS, if at all possible.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), additional studies on the effects of PFAS show that the chemicals can affect:
- Immune systems
- Tumor development
- Cholesterol levels
- Reproductive systems
Several PFAS-related lawsuits have emerged across the U.S. One class-action lawsuit names as defendants multiple PFAS manufacturers. It was filed on behalf of a firefighter whose career exposed him to the chemicals present in firefighting foams. However, the class has been expanded to include anyone in the country who contains measurable amounts of PFAS in their bodies.