Exposure to a common group of chemicals may increase the risk of diabetes for middle-aged women, according to a new study.
The study, published Monday in Diabetologia, the scientific journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, describes how the onset of diabetes in a group of more than 1,000 women was associated with exposure to higher levels of PFAs, which are associated with diabetes. is a group. More than 4,700 synthetic chemicals.
First developed in the 1940s, anti- and polyfluoroalkyl substances known as PFASs are found in countless types of everyday products such as water-resistant clothing, stain-resistant carpets and non-stick cookware, as well as in industries such as construction. go. Electronics and the military. They are useful because of their properties in resisting water, oil and heat.
But they are also often called “forever chemicals” because they contain fused carbon and fluorine atoms, one of the strongest bonds in chemistry, meaning that PFAS don’t break down easily in our environment. Is.
PFAS have been found in our water, in the land, and in human and animal bodies themselves, far more than the products they use in our environment. But their full impact on our health is not fully understood, making them a major concern. According to a press release to the scientists.
In this new study, scientists pulled data from a group called the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN), an ongoing study group that focused on cis women in mid-life to determine how long before and after the menopausal transition health outcomes can be seen. The women were recruited to the US cohort between 1996–1997, and went on to undergo follow-up testing several times over the years.
In 2016, Swan analyzed blood and urine samples from a small cohort for the Swan Multi-Pollutant Study (SWAN-MPS), which began in 1999–2000 to test for the presence of environmental chemicals, including seven PFASs. The women gave urine and blood samples and were monitored from 1999 to 2017.
To study the effect of PFAS exposure, researchers looked at 1,237 women in the SWAN-MPS group who were between the ages of 45-56 at the start of the study period and had no history of diabetes.
The researchers were looking for incident diabetes, which occurs when a patient with a history of diabetes develops sudden new-onset diabetes.
Between 1999 and 2017, scientists observed that 102 out of 1,237 women developed diabetes.
The researchers organized the participants into three groups, based on whether they had a high, medium, or low risk for PFAS, based on their samples. When they compared participants in the high- and medium-risk groups with those in the low-risk group, they found that the high- and medium-risk groups had higher incidence rates of diabetes.
“Higher serum concentrations of certain PFASs were associated with a higher risk of incident diabetes in middle-aged women,” the researchers said.
If participants were exposed to more than one type of PFAS, the risk increased even more, the researchers found.
For all seven PFASs included in the study, women in the high-risk group were two and a half times more likely to develop diabetes than those in the low-risk group.
“The combined effects of the PFAS mixture were greater than those of the individual PFAS, suggesting a possible additive or synergistic effect of multiple PFASs on diabetes risk,” the researchers explained.
Previous studies have shown links between PFAS exposure and altered levels of liver enzymes, increased blood fat, low birth weight and even decreased antibody response to vaccines, according to the release.
It is unknown whether the results of this new study apply to men as well, but if they are, it would mean that about 370,000 cases of the 1.5 million Americans diagnosed with onset diabetes each year may be linked to PFAS exposure. , stated in the release. ,
Those who developed diabetes in the cohort were also more likely to be black, to come from a socially and economically disadvantaged area, to be less physically active and to have a higher body mass index, factors that may have influenced those ways. that combine social and economic forces. Increased health risks for disadvantaged groups in society.
“Reducing exposure to these ‘forever and ubiquitous chemicals’ even before they enter midlife may be an important preventive approach to reducing diabetes risk,” the researchers said. “Policy change around drinking water and consumer products could prevent population-wide exposure.”
The number of types of PFAS that exist suggests that policy-makers treat PFAS as a single class when making rules, rather than trying to regulate each specific.