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Elevated PFAS Levels Increase Risk Of Severe COVID-19 Infections: Study

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New research suggests exposure to toxic chemicals used in firefighting foam and other products may make COVID-19 infections more severe.

In a study released by medRxiv on October 26, researchers from Denmark indicate high levels of per- and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS) in the body appears to affect the severity of the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19), making it worse. The findings were released in a preprinted study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed.

PFAS chemicals are used in a wide variety of products, yet the chemicals are projected to take thousands of years to degrade, and past studies have shown their ability to enter and stay in the environment and human body through the air, dust, food, soil, and water. The chemicals primarily settle into the blood, kidney and liver, and have been found to contaminate waters sources near military bases, airports and other locations where aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) is regularly used.

Some estimates suggest the chemicals may be detected in the blood of 98% of the U.S. population, and exposure has been linked to a wide variety of cancers, including kidney cancer, testicular cancer and breast cancer.

In this latest study, researchers looked at plasma samples from 323 subjects ages 30-70, with known COVID-19 infections. They then measured PFAS concentrations in those samples.

According to the findings, PFAS concentrations in plasma were higher in men, in subjects with Western European backgrounds, and tended to increase with age. The researchers found that subjects with high PFAS levels, particularly one PFAS known as perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA) were more than twice as likely to suffer more severe COVID-19 infections than those with lower PFAS blood plasma levels.

“Measures of individual exposures to immunotoxic PFASs included PFBA that accumulates in the lungs,” the researchers concluded. “Elevated plasma-PFBA concentrations were associated with an increased risk of more severe course of COVID-19. Given the low background exposure levels in this study, the role of PFAS exposure in COVID-19 needs to be ascertained in populations with elevated exposures.”

In recent months, former firefighters and families living near bases have filed numerous firefighting foam lawsuits, which have been filed over testicular cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer and other injuries. In addition, a number of complaints have been filed over widespread water contamination in areas around military bases or other training locations where firefighting foam has been widely used in prior decades.

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