A novel metric has been created that estimates our “burden” or cumulative exposure to a family of thousands of synthetic chemicals that we encounter in everyday life with potentially adverse health impacts. In an article published in Environmental Health Perspectives, the team reported that their sophisticated tool could have distinct advantages for epidemiologists and researchers who routinely measure exposure levels to this class of chemicals, known as PFASs (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances). , which have been associated with high cholesterol, liver damage, thyroid disease, and hormonal disorders.
“Few methods exist to quantify the total exposure burden of people to mixtures of PFAS chemicals encountered in our daily lives,” says lead author Shelley Liu, PhD, an assistant professor in the Center for Biostatistics, Department of Population Health Sciences and Policies. , Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “For the first time, we have developed a PFAS burden calculator that takes into account patterns of exposure to many chemicals within the PFAS family, and not just individual chemical concentrations that current methods focus on. As a result , this robust tool could be extremely useful for biomonitoring by regulatory agencies and for disease and health risk assessment.” PFAS is a class of more than 5,000 chemicals whose fluorine-carbon bond gives them the ability to repel oil and water. That construction has made them an integral part of a growing number of industrial applications and consumer products in recent decades, such as water and stain repellants, Teflon nonstick pans, paints, cleaners, and food packaging. Additionally, PFAS chemicals do not break down in the environment or in our bodies. Instead, they accumulate in our environment and in our blood, kidneys, and liver, as highlighted by a 2007 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that found PFAS could be detected in the blood of 98 percent of the US population
The Mount Sinai researchers used national biomonitoring data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to develop their exposure burden score using item response theory. Item response theory was developed in the educational testing literature for scoring standardized tests, and Mount Sinai researchers are the first to use it in environmental epidemiology to develop an exposure burden score, highlighted by this transdisciplinary research. Specifically, they used serum concentrations of eight common PFAS chemicals taken from adults and children. By combining a participant’s core biomarker concentrations with their much broader “exposure pattern,” that is, their relative exposure to other PFAS biomarkers within the entire chemical class, the researchers were able to estimate a cumulative PFAS exposure burden or summarized. Other researchers and epidemiologists can access this statistical methodology by simply entering their data sets into the PFAS Burden Calculator, which is available online. The benefits are significant. “We found that our method allows the burden of exposure to chemical mixtures to be compared across studies, even if they don’t measure the same set of chemicals, which supports harmonization across studies and consortia,” explains Dr. Liu, whose research is primarily focused on in environmental health through latent variable modeling and longitudinal data analysis. In addition, the calculator offers an easy way to include exposure biomarkers with low detection frequencies and reduce exposure measurement errors by considering both a participant’s concentrations and their exposure patterns to estimate the burden of exposure to chemical mixtures. .
“By capturing the variability of individual biomarkers, we essentially keep the exposure metric constant so it can be used for a variety of applications,” says Dr. Liu. “These could include, for example, looking across populations to determine if there are differences in exposure burdens between racial/ethnic or socioeconomic strata, or if exposure burdens are the same between people in the United States or Canada. Or looking at across physiological systems and health outcomes, such as cardiometabolic, hormonal, and immunological, to see which are most disrupted by exposure to PFAS chemicals.This range of applications takes us far beyond anything currently available in the field of the health of the population”. (AND ME)
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