Hypertension in women: persistent chemicals are involved

This is one more disease to add to the long list of harmful effects of persistent chemicals, also called perfluorinated or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Already accused of harming the cardiovascular system, inducing oxidative stress or even causing cholesterol, these PFAS could increase the risk of high blood pressure, according to a new study published in the journal Hypertension from the American Heart Association (Source 1).

Called “forever chemicals” in English, which could be translated as “eternal chemicals”, PFAS are used in industry. It is found in particular in certain beauty and hygiene products, in non-stick coatings of cookware, food packaging or in upholstery fabrics. Alas, they persist in the environment and also enter the food chain through fish and dairy products, through contaminated fertilizers. Soil, water, air… All environments are affected by this invisible pollution.

These pollutants, an underestimated risk factor?

Women appear to be particularly vulnerable when exposed to these chemicals”, said Ning Ding, lead author of the study and researcher in the Department of Epidemiology at the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan (USA). “Our study is the first to examine the association between these ‘eternal chemicals’ and hypertension in middle-aged women. This exposure may be an underestimated risk factor for cardiovascular disease risk in women”, she added.

The study was conducted among more than 1,000 women between the ages of 45 and 56 who had normal blood pressure when they enrolled in the study. Perfluorinated blood concentrations were measured at the start of the study, then all participants were followed annually from 1999 to 2017.

A total of 470 women developed high blood pressure. Compared to the lowest tercile, women with higher concentrations of PFAS were more likely to develop high blood pressure: women with the highest concentrations of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and 2-(N-ethyl-perfluorooctane sulfonamido)acetic acid (or EtFOSAA, a precursor to PFOS) were respectively 42%, 47% and 42% more likely to develop high blood pressurecompared to women with the lowest PFAS concentrations.

As for women with the highest concentrations of the seven PFASs examined here, they had a 71% increased risk of developing high blood pressure.

“It is important to note that we examined PFAS individually as well as multiple PFAS together, and we found that combined exposure to multiple PFAS had a stronger effect on blood pressure”, commented Sung Kyun Park, co-author of the study.

We’ve known for some time that PFAS disrupt the body’s metabolism, but we didn’t expect the strength of the association we found. We hope that these results alert healthcare professionals to the importance of perfluorides and understand and recognize [l’exposition à ces substances] as an important potential risk factor for blood pressure control”, concluded the researcher, who also invites the political authorities to take measures to limit the use of these substances.

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