Search the LastingHealth website


January 3, 2023

PFAS linked with suppression of the immune system

Exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is widely thought to be carcinogenic. Carcinogens act on the body by attacking the immune system and inflaming body tissue which can lead to the development of diseases. 


New research which collated results of more than 1000 earlier studies explored the association between PFAS exposure and subsequent development of disease, and found strong links. Two types of PFAS were examined using data from the US International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP). Exposures to PFAS were compared with two known carcinogens, chromium and benzene. 


The new study looked for evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to changes in cell activities that are linked to immune system health and the body’s response to disease. Rises in cytokine production (cells which regulate growth and activity of immune system and blood cells) were seen. Decreases in B-cell activity and changes in T-cells and immunoglobulins (types of antibody cells) levels were also seen. This new analysis strongly suggests an association between PFAS exposure and chronic inflammation, and that PFAS exposure can induce immunosuppression. 


Exposure to PFAS is already linked to a range of health problems including cancer. PFASs are known as a “Forever chemical” because their chemical bonds are extremely hard to break down. Read more about PFAS.


Are there any signs that PFASs on their way out? 

There are thousands of PFASs used around the world in everyday products such as cookware, clothing, and food packaging. Very few PFASs have been banned on health grounds but there are positive signs that the use of PFAS will start to decline over the coming years.


In financial markets, asset managers are demanding that the use of Forever Chemicals should be phased out. Global manufacturers are announcing their plans to phase use out the use of PFAS, including 3M which has committed to stop using them by 2025. MacDonalds have pledge to remove all PFASs from their packaging. Outdoor clothing manufacturers such as Gortex are also committed to source chemicals that raise fewer health concerns. 



Lasting Health