Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) may be absorbed through the skin, as seen through research with mice. However, researchers believe the highest levels of exposure to PFAS may come from swallowing these synthetic chemicals, often because of contaminated drinking water. A study sponsored by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published in the February 2020 edition of Food and Chemical Toxicology suggests PFAS may be absorbed through the skin as well.
If this holds true in humans, it could mean that fabrics, textiles, and contaminated water pose a greater risk through skin exposure than once believed.
NIOSH Study Shows Mice Absorb PFAS Through Their Skin
The NIOSH research looked at the exposure and effects of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a common PFAS, on the immune response in mice. Researchers specifically looked at what happened to antibody levels when the mice absorbed high levels of PFOA through the skin. The study found that the mice had a greatly reduced antibody count within four days of exposure, signaling a weakened immune system, as well as reduced thymus and spleen weight.
If PFAS are absorbed through the skin, this means that municipalities and individuals should be concerned about potentially contaminated water supplies. With skin absorption, bathing or showering in contaminated water may be as much of a concern as drinking it. In addition, this raises additional potential concerns about the products consumers may come into contact with that contain PFOA and other PFAS. Wearing water-repellant clothing made with PFAS, for example, could expose large areas of skin.
Ways Humans may be Exposed to PFAS
Companies use PFAS in only a few types of goods today, but these chemicals are already in the environment and there are still areas where contaminated water is a risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people may be exposed through contaminated drinking water or other sources including:
- Eating contaminated fish from areas where the PFAS levels are above those approved by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) or state governments.
- Exposure to rivers, creeks, or water run-off contaminated with PFAS, possibly because of fire-fighting foam or industrial contamination.
- Swallowing contaminated soil, dust, or other materials, such as during construction work in a contaminated area.
- Eating food that was packaged in PFAS-containing materials or prepared in some non-stick cookware.
- Exposure to other products made with PFAS, such as stain-resistant carpeting and water-repellent clothing.
PFAS may build up in the body over time and cause significant health concerns.
Legal Actions Based on PFAS Exposure
According to the EPA, evidence showing that PFAS have negative health impacts continues to grow. Further research may be needed to confirm the risk of absorption through the skin in humans, but there is already evidence to show that people may suffer a wide range of conditions and diseases because of PFAS exposure, including:
- Immune system dysfunction, as shown in mice in the aforementioned study
- Thyroid disease
- Low infant birth weight
- Hormone suppression
Several states including New York and other organizations filed lawsuits against manufacturers of these chemicals in 2019 according to Bloomberg Law, attempting to hold them responsible for their role in contaminating water supplies and exposing people to harmful toxins. Others may follow suit.
The goal of this type of case is to ensure those who suffered a negative health impact do not suffer additional damages because of a condition potentially caused by exposure they could not prevent and knew nothing about. There is speculation about whether the manufacturers of these products may have known of the potential dangers for years. These companies should pay for your medical care, pain and suffering, and other losses if so.
Speak to an Attorney About Your Diagnosis and PFAS Exposure
If you believe you suffered adverse medical events or have a diagnosis linked to PFAS exposure, consider reaching out to the team at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm. We understand the possible effects of PFAS exposure, what it takes to build a case, and how to join the lawsuits already in progress. If we believe your case has merit, we may be able to help.
If you let Pintas & Mullins Law Firm work with you, we may get started with a complimentary consultation and case review. If we work together on your case, we work on a contingency-fee basis. You will not need to pay anything out of your own pocket, and we will only receive our fee if you secure a settlement or award.
Call (800) 794-0444 to learn more.