What’s in Your Blood? California to Screen for Fluorochemicals

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By Emily C. Dooley

California state health officials and researchers are launching a biomonitoring program this year to measure the concentration of fluorochemicals in people’s blood.

The California Regional Exposure Study, or CARE, will start with 300 to 500 volunteers in Los Angeles and expand to include eight parts of the state in coming years as resources allow.

Twelve types of fluorochemicals will be screened for in blood serum, said Sam Delson, spokesman for California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, or OEHHA.

“This information will support efforts to reduce chemical exposure in Californians and improve public health,” a state fact sheet said.

Care in Communication

Fluorochemicals, such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), are known for their use in firefighting foam and in making stain-resistant products.

They don’t break down in water and can accumulate in the body. Exposure can cause developmental issues in children, thyroid problems, immune system issues, and other ill health effects.

Results of individual tests will be communicated to participants and a summary of total samples will be released to the public. The state also will hold community meetings to discuss findings.

Jon Corley, director of issue communications for the American Chemistry Council, expressed caution about how California communicates survey results.

“It is important for California to adhere to the CDC standards for biomonitoring of human exposure to chemicals so information is reported in the proper context and does not create unwarranted fear or concern,” Corley said.

Federal Surveys

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics has included blood testing for fluorochemicals as part of its own national health survey since about 2003, said Kathryn S. Porter, director of the Division of Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys.

That survey involved interviews with 5,000 randomly-selected people nationwide about their health and habits and collected blood and urine samples, but the results down to the state level are not released.

“I could certainly see why California would want to do their own study,” Porter told Bloomberg Environment July 9.

The national survey screens for 16 types of fluorochemicals, including the dozen that California will test for as part of its research.

California has had a biomonitoring program in place since 2006.

In 2016, the state launched a limited survey of Chinese residents in San Francisco to screen for fluorochemicals and metals like arsenic, cadmium, and lead as part of its Asian/Pacific Islander Community Exposures Project.

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