April 7, 2021
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today on behalf of the National Center for Health Research. I am Dr. Meg Seymour, a senior fellow at the center. Our center is a non-profit public health think tank that analyzes and explains scientific and medical information pertaining to the safety and effectiveness of consumer products, medical products, and exposures in the environment, in order to improve policies, programs, services, and products. We do not accept funding from companies that make the products that we evaluate.
We appreciate today’s excellent Forum about PFAS research. Exposure to PFAS and its subsequent health effects are a great concern to our think tank as well. As you heard today, many communities are affected by PFAS exposure, and measuring PFAS levels in the blood can help to properly diagnose medical conditions and urgently reduce the riskiest exposures.
Although it is not yet clear exactly how information about PFAS exposure could best be used to improve public health in all cases, the need for substantial research is clear. In addition to testing those most likely to be exposed at work, such as firefighters or those working in factories involving PFAS chemicals, we need testing in communities with PFAS in the ground water, near landfills, near contaminated agricultural fields, or exposed to contaminated seafood or other contaminated types of food. And, we also need baseline data for all children and adults living in areas that represent the country as a whole.
We also ask you to consider the potential impact of exposure to artificial turf and playground surfaces that contain PFAS. Athletes and children who play on artificial turf may be exposed to PFAS for hours every day. In addition, these materials eventually end up in landfills in many parts of the country.
Further, PFAS can present a particular risk for pregnant and lactating women, such as increasing the likelihood of developing preeclampsia or lower birth weight. Low birth weight can cause subsequent harm to the child. A 2019 study published in The Lancet Planetary Health found that higher exposure to PFAS during gestation and early life can lead to reduced lung function in children. For these reasons, pregnant and lactating women across the country should be tested.
Although it is impossible to entirely avoid PFAS in one’s environment, we urge that clinicians advise patients on how to reduce their exposure in their homes and communities.