You may have heard of the newly emerging environmental issue on PFAS contamination. PFAS otherwise known as Perfluoroalkyl substances is a man-made chemical widely used in fire extinguishers and firefighting foam, food packaging, waterproof fabrics, non-stick cookware, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, cleaning agents, and paints (Salihovic et. al. 2015 & Seo et. al. 2018).
Exposure has been mainly from the consumption of fish, meat, and dairy, drinking water contamination, and home products (Salihovic et. al. 2015). There is also a strong correlation between contamination of drinking water and spatial proximity to industrial point source pollution, military fire training run-off, and wastewater treatment plants (Blake et. al. 2018).
There is also a strong correlation between contamination of drinking water and spatial proximity to industrial point source pollution, military fire training run-off, and wastewater treatment plants (Blake et. al. 2018).
PFAS can affect thyroid hormone homeostasis and has led to decreased thyroid stimulating hormones (TSH). TSH increases basal metabolic rate, aid in bone growth and affects protein synthesis. There have also been studies reporting increased mortality rates caused by diabetes based on PFAS exposure (Seo et. al. 2018).
PFAS is associated with a wide variety of diseases, including endocrine disruption, developmental health effects, cancer and metabolic changes (Blake et. al. 2018). In particular, PFAS levels are associated with lower SHBG levels, lower FSH levels, and lower testosterone levels in adolescent and young females (Tsai et. al. 2015). PFAS has also been linked to lower testosterone levels in males (Joensen et. al. 2013& Zhou et. al. 2016).
SHBG is a sex hormone binding globulin and binds to testosterone and estrogen (SHBG 2019). FSH is a follicle stimulating hormone that regulates development, growth, pubertal maturation and reproductive processes. FSH stimulates the production of testosterone, therefore it makes sense that there have been lower FSH and testosterone with increased PFAS levels.
Testosterone is important for the development of reproductive tissues, triggers the growth of muscles, bone mass, and body hair increases sex drive and produces sperm (Wein 2013). This hormone is essential in the male reproductive system. A significant decline in testosterone could affect the fitness of male humans.
Since PFAS bioaccumulates, concentrations are higher in older people, males, and is correlated with higher cholesterol as well since it binds to lipids and fats (Seo et. al. 2018).
PFAS cannot be fully eliminated from municipal water systems (Blake et. al. 2018). If you are concerned about PFAS contamination in your water use a trusted water source and avoid drinking or cooking water contaminated with PFAS.
Blake et. al. (2018) Associations between longitudinal serum perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) levels and measures of thyroid hormone, kidney function, and body mass index in the Fernald Community Cohort. Environmental Pollution pp 894-904.
Joensen et. al. (2013) PFOS in serum is negatively associated with testosterone levels, but not with semen quality, in healthy men. Human Reproduction pp 599-608
Salihovic et. al. (2015) Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) including structural PFOS isomers in plasma from elderly men and women from Sweden: Results from the Prospective Investigation of the Vasculature in Uppsala Seniors. Environment International pp 21-27.
Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (2019) University of Rochester Medical Center. Retrieved from https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=167&ContentID=shbg_blood
Seo et. al. (2018) Influence of exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) on the Korean general population: 10-year trend and health effects. Environmental International pp 149-161.
Tsai et. al. (2015) Association between perfluoroalkyl substances and reproductive hormones in adolescents and young adults. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health pp 437-443.
Wein (2013) Understanding How Testosterone Affects Men. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/understanding-how-testosterone-affects-men
Zhou et. al. (2016) Association of perfluoroalkyl substances exposure with reproductive hormone levels in adolescents: By sex status. Environment International pp 189-195.