According to research on Australian firefighters, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) levels in the blood can be reduced if a person donates blood every 12 weeks or plasma every 6 weeks.
Why is this important?
PFAS do not break down and can accumulate over time in the environment and in the human body. Exposures to this family of chemicals have been linked to cancer and other health effects.
Why is this important to firefighters?
Firefighters are at higher risk because they are exposed to these chemicals at high levels from multiple sources, including:
- Protective gear (to enhance water resistance).
- Products of combustion (present in many household products that burn in fires).
- Some firefighting foams (to increase fire suppression capabilities).
More study is needed
Researchers at the University of Arizona Health Sciences have started a new study to test the effectiveness of blood or plasma donations in lowering levels of PFAS, and whether lower levels of PFAS reduce the risk of cancer or cardiovascular disease.
The study will build on the Australian firefighter research to determine if firefighters in the United States will see the same benefit as those in Australia. If so, the research will be expanded to see if a reduction in PFAS levels will result in beneficial biological effects.
This study is the latest in a series of research projects by the University of Arizona Health Sciences that contribute to the understanding of how occupational exposures impact firefighters’ health. Last year, this research team, in collaboration with the Tucson Fire Department, provided evidence to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that occupational exposure as a firefighter causes cancer.
Learn more about the research team and its past and upcoming research on firefighter occupational health in the University of Arizona Health Sciences’ “Improving Firefighter Health Through Research.”