INDUSTRY CITES 3M EXPERIMENT THAT EXPOSED CANCER PATIENTS TO PFAS TO CLAIM THE CHEMICALS AREN’T SO BAD | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

INDUSTRY CITES 3M EXPERIMENT THAT EXPOSED CANCER PATIENTS TO PFAS TO CLAIM THE CHEMICALS AREN’T SO BAD

SOURCE: THE INTERCEPT
Defenders of the chemicals known as PFAS have seized upon an industry-funded study of cancer patients as evidence that the compounds used to make Teflon, firefighting foam, and many other products aren’t as dangerous as they seem.

The study, which was funded by the Minnesota-based global conglomerate 3M and published in February 2018 in the journal Toxicological Sciences, exposed 49 terminal cancer patients to high doses of PFOA. Now recognized as a widespread water contaminant, PFOA was originally developed by 3M.

The authors of the study, who include a 3M staff scientist and two University of Minnesota faculty members who received research grants from the company, initially describe its purpose as assessing the chemotherapeutic potential of PFOA. Yet the paper contains little mention of how the chemical affected patients’ cancers and instead focuses on their cholesterol levels, which appeared to decrease slightly over a six-week trial period. (Since the study’s publication, one of its authors, Matteo Convertino, left the institution.)

The authors suggest that their finding upends the observation made in many other studies that environmental exposure to PFOA increases cholesterol levels and may motivate “re-examination of the implications of population studies exposed to much lower levels of PFOA,” as they write in the abstract.

Indeed, the clinical trial is at odds with the extensive scientific literature on the chemicals based on populations of people who had been exposed to PFAS for years. That research shows that very low levels of the chemicals, which accumulate in the body over time, cause elevated cholesterol levels and interfere with developmental, hormonal, reproductive, and immune function. Among the health problems associated with the chemicals are reduced penis size, thyroid disease, and cancers.

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