Monday 8 July 2024

New Study Confirms Forever Chemicals Are Absorbed Through Human Skin


A new study on widespread “forever chemicals” by the University of Birmingham published in Environment International proved for the first time that a wide range of PFAS chemicals can be readily absorbed through human skin. Although the chemicals are already well known to enter the body through other means such as ingestion (eating and drinking) and inhalation, it has until recently been thought that PFAS are unable to breach the skin barrier. The new study, however, confirms that most of them can enter the body via this route.  

Dr. Oddny Ragnarsd├│ttir, the lead author of the study, stated: “The ability of these chemicals to be absorbed through skin has previously been dismissed because the molecules are ionized. The electrical charge that gives them the ability to repel water and stains was thought to also make them incapable of crossing the skin membrane”. The research instead shows that this theory does not always hold, and significant amounts of PFAS exposure can be a result of absorption through the skin.  

Among the thousands of different types of PFAS, the researchers chose 17 of the most widely used and studied, and those that directly corresponded to chemicals specifically regulated by the EU’s Drinking Water Directive. Of the 17 tested PFAS, 15 showed substantial absorption of at least 5% of the exposure dose. The study also showed that absorption correlated with carbon chain length, with longer chain molecules absorbing less than shorter chain molecules. This study provides much needed evidence of how skin contact and carbon chain length can affect exposure and raises several questions at a time when industry is shifting towards shorter chain PFAS believing them to be less toxic. 

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