Exposure to PFAS linked to miscarriage
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Exposure to PFAS linked to miscarriage

A Swedish study has been able to associate exposure of PFAS with miscarriage in the early pregnancy. The women who had double the amount of the PFAS chemical PFOA in their blood compared to the other participants were 50% more likely to suffer miscarriage.

The discovered link between PFAS exposure and an increased risk of miscarriage during the first trimester is one of the results of the SELMA study, conducted at Karlstad University in Sweden.

Researchers at Karlstad, Örebro and Lund universities have previously shown that PFAS can affect both the pregnant woman and the fetus during early pregnancy, causing preeclampsia and poorer fetal growth. Now, involuntary termination of pregnancy can be added to the list.

“Perhaps the most worrying is the fact that these types of chemicals remain in the environment and humans even after they have been banned”

“These results, together with what has been shown before, are worrying. Perhaps the most worrying is the fact that these types of chemicals remain in the environment and humans even after they have been banned, because they are so extremely persistent and bioaccumulative”, says Carl-Gustaf Bornehag, professor and project manager for the SELMA study at Karlstad University and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, USA.

Persistent, toxic – and mostly legal

PFAS is short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, and a group of almost 5,000 man-made chemicals used in firefighting foam and everyday items like non-stick frying pans and rainwear. They are often referred to as “forever chemicals”, since they don’t degrade over time, and can be found in the bloodstream of almost every human being on the planet.

“The vast majority of PFAS are still perfectly legal to use, making it easy for manufacturers to switch to an unregulated ‘cousin’ when one PFAS chemical is banned”

Apart from being extremely persistent, PFAS are also toxic and have been linked to a number of diseases, such as cancer, liver damage, decreased fertility, and increased risk of asthma and thyroid disease.

Although a few of these “forever chemicals”, such as PFOA and PFOS, have been banned from further use in large parts of the world, the vast majority of PFAS are still perfectly legal to use, making it easy for manufacturers to switch to an unregulated “cousin” when one PFAS chemical is banned.

“The results from the SELMA study further strengthens our conviction that tougher legislation on PFAS is necessary – and initiatives like ChemSec’s PFAS Movement, gathering companies that say no to PFAS entirely, are crucial. Considering what we know about these chemicals, their link to miscarriage is disheartening, but not surprising”, says Dr. Jonatan Kleimark at ChemSec.

 

The SELMA study

  • The study follows a number of mothers and their children from early pregnancy, over childbirth and up until the children start school.
  • 6 PFAS chemicals could be identified in the blood of more than 99% of the pregnant women during early pregnancy: PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFDA, PFUnDA and PFHxS.
  • Miscarriages before the 13th week of pregnancy (first trimester) were recorded in the study after they were confirmed by ultrasound.
  • 78 women who had miscarried in the first trimester were compared to 1,449 women who gave birth to live children.