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PFAS Chemicals & Covid-19: An On Going Debate  

PFAS (perfluoralkyl and polyfluoralkyl substances ) chemicals have been widely used for many years in thousands of different applications including water resistant clothing and footwear, non-stick pots and pans, firefighting foams, food packaging, and stain-resistant carpets. Not surprisingly, large amounts of these chemicals have escaped into the environment, causing concern because these chemicals break down very slowly, tend to accumulate in living things, and have been associated with a number of health effects, such as kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid problems, and reproductive and developmental harms.  

PFAS chemicals have also been associated with reduced immunity, an issue of more than usual concern during the current pandemic.  Highlighting this issue, a recent study led by Phillip Grandjean, the results of which were published December 31, 2020, examined PFAS levels in blood samples from 323 Danish patients infected with the coronavirus, finding that individuals with higher PFBA [a type of PFAS] were more likely to be hospitalized, wind up in intensive care, and die than those with lower levels. 

Related to this issue of reduced immunity, other studies have indicated that PFAS exposure may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, an issue of some concern during a global pandemic. For example, one study by Grandjean  published in 2017 found that antibody responses to tetanus and diphtheria vaccines were weaker in 5 year olds who had higher levels of PFAS in their blood when they were between 3 and 6 months of age. 

In a blog from November 2020, however, the American Chemistry Council, whose members include manufacturers of PFAS products, pushed back on the notion that PFAS exposure might reduce the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines, citing a study which found no association between PFOA (a type of PFAS) exposure and response to an influenza vaccine in adults.  The Council also argued that PFAS chemicals were used in many technologies used in the fight against Covid-19, such as testing equipment, ventilator production, medical garments, hospital gowns, drapes, and divider curtains.   

In November 2020, Dr. Robert Redfield, then head of the CDC, indicated that the government was investigating the intersection between PFAS exposure and Covid-19. According to Dr. Redfield, the ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry)) was conducting a study of Covid-19 among healthcare workers and first responders, and as part of that study, it would measure blood levels of PFAS in these groups to explore possible associations between blood levels of PFAS and the risk of Covid infection. In addition, the agency would attempt to gauge connections between PFAS levels and antibody responses to the virus.   Many first responders, such as firefighters, are not only at high risk of being exposed to Covid-19, but are known to have high levels of PFAS related to occupational exposures.  Hopefully, this study will shed additional light on the possible role of PFAS chemicals in reducing immunity, antibody response, and vaccine effectiveness related to Covid-19. 

If you or a loved one have been harmed by exposure to PFAS chemicals, please contact James F Humphreys & Associates, L.C. at 304-881-0652 (local) or 877-341-2595 (toll free) for a free initial consultation. You may also contact us at our website, www.  


Phillipe Granjean, et al., Severity of Covid-19 at elevated exposure to perfluorinated alkylates, 12/31/2020,

PFAS exposure linked with worse COVID-19 outcomes.

American Chemistry Council, Guardian Misleads on PFAS and Covid-19, 11/17/20.

Looker C, et al., Influenza vaccine response in adults exposed to perfluorooctanoate and perfluorooactanesulfonate, Toxicol. Sci. 138:76-88 (2014),

Rebecca Trager, Chemistry World, PFAS Exposure Found to Increase Severe Covid-19, 1/12/21.

ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry), Potential Health Effects of PFAS Chemicals.

EWG, CDC investigates potential link between “forever chemicals” and decreased effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines, 12/11/20.