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Household Chemicals May Affect Cholesterol Levels

MONDAY, Nov. 2 -- Chemicals used in food packaging, paper and textile coatings may affect blood cholesterol levels in people, U.S. researchers have found.

Previous studies have found that polyfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs) are present in the bodies of most people. In this new study, a team at the Boston University School of Public Health analyzed the association between serum cholesterol levels and four PFCs: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), and perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS).

The analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey revealed that people with levels of PFOS, PFOA and PFNA in the top 25 percent had higher total and non-HDL cholesterol (primarily the "bad" LDL cholesterol) than those with levels in the lowest 25 percent.

The association was most noticeable for PFNA, with a 13.9 milligram per deciliter difference in estimated cholesterol levels between people with the highest and lowest levels of the chemical, the study authors noted.

The researchers found little evidence of a link between PFC levels and body size or insulin resistance, according to the report in the Nov. 2 issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

"Though these results are based on cross-sectional data and are exploratory, they are consistent with much of the human epidemiologic literature and indicate that polyfluoroalkyl chemicals may be exerting an effect on cholesterol at environmentally relevant exposures," wrote first author Jessica Nelson and colleagues. "Our study affirms the importance of investigating polyfluoroalkyl chemicals other than PFOS and PFOA, particularly as industrial uses of PFOS and PFOA decline and other polyfluoroalkyl chemicals are substituted."

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Posted: November 2009