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Posted by on in Health & Environmental Risk Assessment
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PFOA Exposure and Disease Trends

Posted on behalf of the author, Kevin Towle


Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a synthetic perfluorinated carboxylic acid used as a surfactant in industrial applications. It's typically an ingredient in coatings such as Teflon®, which is used in products like waterproof clothing and non-stick cookware surfaces. In 2006, via the newly created 2010/2015 PFOA Stewardship Program, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and eight major chemical companies committed to eliminating PFOA from emissions and products by 2015. According to the program's 2014 progress report, these companies have reduced PFOA content in their products by at least 99% in their United States operations.

Over the last ten years, studies have focused on PFOA because of its persistence in both the environment and human beings and other organisms. A recent study by Steenland et al. (2015) analyzed an occupational cohort from a DuPont plant in West Virginia to determine if PFOA exposure was associated with disease incidence. The researchers concluded that there was a significant positive trend between PFOA exposure and both ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis. Additionally, suggestive positive trends were found for prostate cancer, non-hepatitis liver disease, and male thyroid disease. According to the authors, their findings suggest that high doses of PFOA could be associated with more than one autoimmune disease; however, the authors did note that more robust inferences were not possible because of the limited number of observed cases. 

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Ms. Luda Kopelovich is a Senior Associate Health Scientist with Cardno ChemRisk. She is a graduate of the University of California, Davis where she earned a bachelor’s of science degree in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior, and also a bachelor’s of art degree in Russian.  She received her MPH from University of California, Berkeley in 2015.  At Cardno ChemRisk (formerly ChemRisk, LLC), Ms. Kopelovich is regularly involved in litigation support, literature reviews, and exposure assessment. Her training includes risk assessment, dose reconstruction and evaluation, and environmental and occupational epidemiology. Additionally, she has been involved with assessing occupational, environmental, and consumer exposure to various chemicals, including asbestos, silica, diacetyl, benzene, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate.

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