Exposure to ‘forever chemicals’ in cosmetics and non-stick pans may DOUBLE women’s risk of diabetes, study claims
- US researchers looked at 3,302 premenopausal women aged 42 to 52
- Blood tested for polyfluoroalkyls – or PFAS – dubbed ‘forever chemicals’
- Risk 2.62 times higher for those with highest level of chemicals in blood
Middle-aged women may be at a higher risk of diabetes due to ‘forever chemicals’ in cosmetics and non-stick cooking pans, a study claims.
Researchers found women with high levels of the substances in their blood had up to double the chance of developing the disease.
Polyfluoroalkyls – or PFAS – have been dubbed ‘forever chemicals’ because they are designed not to break down in the environment.
They featured in the Hollywood film Dark Waters starring Mark Ruffalo after a community’s water was poisoned by the chemicals from the local plant.
There are around 5,000 different types of the chemicals and they have been linked to a range of health issues, including cancer, high blood pressure and birth defects.
Two villages in Cambridgeshire had to drink bottled water after it emerged their local drinking water was contaminated with a similar ‘forever chemical’.
The latest study looked at 3,302 premenopausal women aged 42-52 years whose blood was first sampled between 1996-1997, and repeated periodically until 2017.
Researchers, led Dr Sung Kyun Park at the University of Michigan, tested for the presence of environmental chemicals including seven PFAS.
‘Forever chemicals’ in cosmetics and non-stick pans can more than double you risk of diabetes, a study claims
The authors said: ‘Higher serum concentrations of certain PFAS were associated with higher risk of incident diabetes in midlife women.’
They also noted: ‘The joint effects of PFAS mixtures were greater than those for individual PFAS, suggesting a potential additive or synergistic effect of multiple PFAS on diabetes risk.’
What are PFAS and how do they get into water supplies?
PFAS are manmade chemicals used as oil and water repellents and coatings for common products including cookware, carpets, and textiles.
These endocrine-disrupting chemicals do not break down when they are released into the environment, and they continue to accumulate over time.
They have been linked to high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer and pregnancy-induced hypertension.
PFAS chemicals can contaminate drinking water supplies near facilities where the chemicals are used.
PFAS contamination has been detected in water near manufacturing facilities as well as military bases and firefighting training facilities where foam containing PFAS is used.
They also enter the food supply through food packaging materials and contaminated soil.
Women were classed into three divisions, those with high, medium and low levels of PFAS.
They found the women in the highest third of the group for all seven were 2.62 times more likely to develop diabetes than those in the ‘low’ category.
Increased risk associated with each individual PFAS ranged from 36 per cent to 85 per cent, suggesting a potential additive or synergistic effect of multiple PFAS on diabetes risk.
The study was published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.
In total, 102 women developed either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes during the study.
The authors wrote: ‘Reduced exposure to these “forever and everywhere chemicals” even before entering midlife may be a key preventative approach to lowering the risk of diabetes.
‘Policy changes around drinking water and consumer products could prevent population-wide exposure.’
The authors suggest that if the effect of PFAS on men is similar to that on women around one in four cases of diabetes in the US could be caused by PFAS exposure, around 370,000 out of 1.5million each year.
PFAS were first developed in the 1940s and which are widely used in industry as well as in consumer products such as non-stick cookware, water and stain-repellent coatings, food packaging, carpeting, firefighting foam, and even cosmetics.
Their molecular structure is based on a linked chain of carbon atoms with one or more fluorine atoms attached, and the extreme stability of those carbon-fluorine bonds make PFAS highly resistant to being broken down.
This durability causes PFAS to persist and accumulate in the environment as well as in the bodies of humans and animals where they can remain for years.
Many PFAS have molecular structures which resemble those of naturally occurring fatty acids, resulting in them having similar chemical properties and effects on the human body.
Fatty acids have a role in controlling the formation and development of new adipocytes (fat cells) as well as the control of the body’s fat and glucose levels. It is thought PFAS may interfere with these naturally occurring fatty acids.