Ask Dr. Nandi: PFAS impact on health

Ask Dr. Nandi: PFAS impact on health
Posted at 3:35 PM, Jul 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-30 15:35:40-04

As news spread of PFAS contaminating waterlines in West Michigan, there are new concerns from people living along the Clinton River and Lake St. Clair which tested positive for PFAS in February. 

Experts believe foam to put out fires used at Selfridge Air National Guard for training exercises is responsible for the contamination.

STUDY: PFAS contamination flowing from Selfridge to metro Detroit water

1) What are the effects of PFAS exposure 

This is very disheartening to hear of the high levels of PFAS in those Michigan communities.  Now there are studies on perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances that have shown it may affect quite a few things when it comes to health like your immune system.  It can also disrupt natural hormones, and increase cholesterol levels and your risk of cancer.  Women may have difficulty getting pregnant, and PFAS might affect babies and children when it comes to their behavior, growth and learning.  But I do want to mention that not all of the studies in humans have shown these health effects. And a whole lot more research is needed.   

2) Is there anything that can be done if you have PFAs in your body? 

The way to know if you have PFAS in your body is through a blood test.  But those test numbers are not going to tell you much.  Because at this point, scientists are unclear as to what those results really indicate and how it relates to health effects.  And different levels will affect everyone differently so you can’t predict a potential future health problem based on those numbers.  But you do want to avoid repeated exposure as PFAS can build up in your body over time.  The good news is that research has shown those levels will lower every 2-4 years by about half.  That is, as long as there is no more exposure to them.

3) If you have concerns about exposure, what can you say to your doctor to get tested?

I’d say just be honest and tell your doctor you’re concerned and want to be tested.  Again, those test numbers don’t indicate you’ll end up with health issues.  But if you’ve been exposed to high levels of PFAS, I would recommend you pay extra attention to any unusual symptoms you may experience.  And then be very proactive and talk with your doctor about getting health screenings early.  And as always, eating right, exercising and removing stress will go a long way when it comes to staying healthy and avoiding disease.