According to new research, Asian Americans are significantly more exposed to “forever chemicals”, which have been linked to cancer than other races.
Last week, the findings were published in Environmental Science & Technology, a peer reviewed journal. They showed that different racial groups and socioeconomic backgrounds are exposed to varying levels of these harmful substances known as PFAS. A family of thousands synthetic chemicals is used in many consumer products from rugs to plastic straws due to its resistance to grease, water and stains.
Shelley Liu said that the report demonstrated a need for further research on the effects of PFAS in people of Asian descent.
“Asian Americans are unfortunately not well represented in the medical research.” Liu, an assistant professor at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, says that there are still many things we do not know. It would be important to investigate whether the higher PFAS levels among Asian Americans are related to possible health effects.
Liu explained that PFASs can accumulate in the body over time, increasing exposure. These ubiquitous substances are linked to an increased risk for some cancers, reduced fertility and other adverse effects.
The study found that Asian Americans had a median level of PFAS 88% higher than whites. Researchers found that Asian Americans had significantly higher levels of PFAS, even after controlling for socioeconomic status.
Liu says it’s still not clear why this disparity exists, and that identifying its sources is difficult given the diverse lifestyles of the Asian American population. Liu said that it is possible for higher exposure to be linked to the fact that many immigrants come from countries where PFAS regulations are different. She added that exposure to PFAS could also be related to cultural factors like diet.
She said, “It could be a mixture of different things ranging from food packaging to dietary sources of the PFAS.” My family also eats foods with different cultural origins. We don’t know what they are because they are imported.
Anna Reade is the lead scientist for PFAS in the Natural Resources Defense Council. She also said that dietary and cultural factors can play a part in disparities. Freshwater fish are often linked to PFAS contamination. Asians had the highest fish consumption across all major racial groups, according to a
Reade stated that the findings were in line with other PFAS studies. California’s
Liu and Reade both agreed that the U.S. lacks regulation on synthetic chemicals, making it difficult to mitigate exposure. Liu said that there are policies which could influence federal regulations. Maine has passed a bill that requires manufacturers of products to report those with PFAS intentionally added. Any product that contains PFAS intentionally added will be prohibited from being sold in Maine by Jan. 1, 2020. A proposal made in the European Union earlier this year called on a permanent ban of chemicals. This included imports.
Liu stated that manufacturers who make products for global sale, simply to ease their own supply chains, could phase out PFAS.
Reade says that while it is important to demand transparency from manufacturers and examine PFAS, it shouldn’t be the responsibility of consumers to avoid toxic chemicals.
We as consumers shouldn’t have to know what is in our products to protect ourselves. Reade said that we shouldn’t need to know, “I shouldn’t buy this stain-resistant couch, or whatever, because it could have PFAS.” The goal should be to make our products safer from the start. It’s important to stop using PFAS, unless they are absolutely necessary for the health and safety of people and society.