Research Reveals Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’ PFAS Accumulate in Testicles | PFAS

New research has found for the first time that the “forever chemicals” PFAS accumulate in the testicles and exposure is likely to affect the health of boys.

Toxic chemicals can damage sperm during a sensitive period of development, which could lead to liver disease and higher cholesterol, especially in male offspring, noted the paper, which analyzed the chemicals in mice.

The research is part of a growing body of work highlighting how paternal exposure to toxic chemicals “can really impact the health, development and future diseases of the next generation,” said Richard Pilsner, a researcher at the School of Medicine at Wayne State University, who co-authored the study.

“We’ve always been concerned about the effects on maternal environmental health because women carry babies… but this research really says there is a paternal contribution to children’s health and development,” Pilsner added.

PFAS are a class of about 16,000 compounds that are used to make products that are water, stain, and heat resistant. They are called “forever chemicals” because they do not break down naturally and have been found to accumulate in humans. The chemicals are linked to cancer, birth defects, liver disease, thyroid disease, plummeting sperm counts, and a variety of other serious health problems.

PFAS alter sperm DNA methylation, which is a process that turns genes on and off, Pilsner said. Methylation patterns can be inherited at fertilization and influence early life development as well as the health of offspring later in life.

The interference can alter the genes in a way that affects the way the liver makes cholesterol, which can lead to elevated levels. The researchers also found that the chemicals affected genes associated with neurological development, but the study did not check for possible impacts on offspring.

Although PFAS most commonly accumulate in the blood and liver, they have been found to accumulate in organs throughout the body, as well as bones. Finding the chemicals in the testes highlights how pervasive chemicals are in mammalian bodies, said Michael Petriello, a Wayne State researcher and co-author.

The study looked at relatively low levels of exposure compared to previous research. It also included long- and short-chain PFAS, the latter of which the industry says are generally safe and do not accumulate in the body. The study is part of a growing body of research showing that “safe” PFAS can also be measured in the tissue or blood of mammals.

Water and food are the two main routes of exposure to PFAS. New federal limits are being implemented for some compounds in water, but public health advocates say filtration systems can limit exposure. Men can protect themselves by avoiding nonstick cookware and waterproof clothing, and by educating themselves about products in which PFAS are commonly used.

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