Toxic Legacy: PFAS Chemicals Threaten Bone Health of Children and Young Adults

A recent study highlighted the alarming impact of a widely used chemical, perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), on the bone development of children and young adults, potentially predisposing them to osteoporosis and other bone-related ailments later in life.

This study, published in Environmental Research, investigated the correlation between PFOS blood serum levels and bone mineral density in 328 Hispanic children and 158 young adults of mixed ethnic backgrounds. The findings revealed significantly lower bone mineral density among those exposed to PFOS.

Lead author Emily Beglarian from the University of Southern CAlifornia’s Keck School of Medicine emphasized the significance of this study, noting that while prior research had established links between PFAS chemicals and bone health, most studies had only gathered information at a single time point and focused predominantly on non-Hispanic, white adults.

Highlighting the underrepresentation of Hispanic individuals in bone health research, Beglarian pointed out the concerning prevalence of PFAS chemicals in everyday environments. These chemicals, known for their persistence and presence in various sources like tap water, have been detected in the bloodstream of a vast majority of Americans, posing potential health risks.

The adverse effects of PFAS exposure are broad-ranging, with associations found between these chemicals and kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid diseases, ulcerative colitis, and now, compromised bone health.

Recent classifications by reputable health organizations, such as the World Health Organization and global cancer experts, have labeled PFOS and similar PFAS compounds as potentially carcinogenic, raising greater concerns about their widespread use.

Beglarian and her team, aiming to delve deeper into the impact of PFAS on bone development, analyzed data from two groups: children aged 8 to 13 and young adults aged 17 to 22. Despite newer regulations resulting in lower PFAS levels in the latter group, both cohorts displayed conserning bone health issues associated with PFAS exposure.

This study sheds light on a relatively new area of research concerning the effects of long-lasting PFAS chemicals on bone development. Future investigations aim to ascertain the lifelong impact of PFAS exposure on bones and understand the cellular mechanisms through which these chemicals reduce bone mineral density. Additionally, the researchers plan to examine the effects of newer, less regulated PFAS compounds to guide potential future regulations and protective measures.

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