Studies have pointed to how these forever chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) weaken the immune system. In turn, people with weaker immune systems are more susceptible to developing a serious or potentially fatal COVID-19 infection.
Researcher Christel Nielsen of Lund University in Sweden said: "There's a clear science and evidence that immunological response and PFAS are connected and associated. That's why the COVID aspect is so important to pursue."
Nielsen and her co-author Anna Joud looked at whether PFAS exposure would increase the risk of contracting COVID-19 in their study. The October 2021 paper published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (IJERPH) examined the southern Swedish town of Ronneby. A third of Ronneby's population has been exposed to drinking water with high PFAS levels for decades.
The study by Nielsen and Joud found that Ronneby had a COVID-19 infection rate 19 percent higher than the nearby town of Karlshamn during the first year of the pandemic. Drinking water in Karlshamn had lower PFAS concentrations than that of Ronneby. "The results suggest a potential link [between high PFAS exposure and] COVID-19 susceptibility," the authors noted. (Related: Hormone-disrupting chemicals in our homes could be detrimental to immune health, raising the risk of COVID-19.)
Another study that tackled the effects of PFAS in people also featured Scandinavian participants. The December 2020 study published in PLOS One looked at the PFAS concentrations in the blood of 323 COVID-19 patients in Denmark. It found that Danes exposed to higher levels of the forever chemical perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA) had a higher chance of developing severe infections.
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health environmental health professor Philippe Grandjean, the study's corresponding author, said of the findings: "If you had PFBA in your blood, then you were more likely to go to the hospital, stay longer, get into intensive care and die from the infection."
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PFAS are found in "many different consumer, commercial and industrial products." Their moniker "forever chemicals" stems from their long-lasting nature and very slow breakdown time. The chemical PFBA identified in the December 2020 study is used as a component of fire-fighting foams and as a coating for paper, leather and textiles.
The EPA added that PFAS are "found in the blood of people all over the world." Once inside the body, they can block, mimic or disrupt hormones – contributing to diminished immunity against COVID-19 and other illnesses.
Aside from increasing the risk of COVID-19 infection, PFAS also make people more likely to die from COVID-19. A March 2021 study published in IJERPH scrutinized the mortality risk from COVID-19 infections in the Veneto region, located in northern Italy. Veneto's "Red Zone," situated in the region's southwest, is known for having drinking water with high PFAS concentrations for decades.
The researchers found that areas within Veneto's red zone had COVID-19 mortality rate 27 times higher.
"We observed a higher mortality risk for COVID-19 in a population heavily exposed to PFAS compared to the resident population in the other municipalities in the Veneto region – which was possibly explained by PFAS immunosuppression, bioaccumulation in lung tissue or pre-existing disease being related to PFAS," the researchers noted.
"[The] fact that the Red Zone population had an unusually high PFBA exposure in the drinking water, along with the evidence that PFBA concentrates in the lung tissue, suggests PFBA as a potential key exposure. PFAS may have the potential via immuno-toxicity to exacerbate COVID-19 respiratory symptoms or, more generally, the severity of the disease through a direct or indirect mechanism."
Visit Chemicals.news to read more stories about the health risks of being exposed to PFAS.
Watch Sydney Evans of the non-profit Environmental Working Group talking about PFAS contamination of drinking water below.
This video is from the Weltansicht channel on Brighteon.com.