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Stain repellants linked to thyroid disease

Researchers from Exeter and Plymouth universities in the UK report establishing an association between thyroid disease and exposure to an organic chemical – perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) – used in such products as non-stick cookware and stain- and water-resistant coatings for carpets and fabrics.

18 Apr 2010

Researchers from Exeter and Plymouth universities in the UK report establishing an association between thyroid disease and exposure to an organic chemical – perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) – used in such products as non-stick cookware and stain- and water-resistant coatings for carpets and fabrics.

Their analysis of samples of 3,966 Americans aged 20 and older who participated in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that people with higher concentrations of PFOA in their blood had higher rates of thyroid disease.

The study is reported in Environmental Health Perspectives.

It sampled the participants’ blood serum between 1999 and 2006 for PFOA and other perfluoroalkyl acid (PFAA) compounds, including perfluoroctane sulphonate (PFOS).

Those with the highest 25% of PFOA concentrations (ie, 5.7 ng/ml) were found to be more than twice as likely to report current thyroid disease than those with the lowest 50% (ie, 4.0 ng/ml). The most specific analysis included 163 women and 46 men who reported having current thyroid disease and taking medication for it at the time their blood samples were taken. The models used in the analysis were adjusted for potential confounding factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, smoking and BMI.

The main source of human exposure to PFOA and PFAAS has not yet been established, although it is believed to be through diet. But it is also thought that people may be exposed through the compounds used in consumer goods such as textiles, footwear, furniture and carpets.

The NHANES dataset was used because it is the only large-scale one available on PFOAs and PFAAs in a general population anywhere in the world. Meanwhile, the largest study yet into possible thyroid-compound links among people living next to where the compounds are manufactured is now under way at DuPont’s plants in Ohio and West Virginia.


Published: 18 Apr 2010