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Non-stick chemicals linked to high cholesterol in kids

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The chemicals contained in non-stick cookware and waterproof fabrics may be linked to elevated levels of cholesterol in children and teenagers, new research shows.

The chemicals, called perfluoroalkyl acids, are found in drinking water, household dust, food packaging, breast milk and a whole host of other sources. They are used in the creation of substances called fluoropolymers, marketed under brand names such as Teflon, which make cooking utensils non-stick and allow clothing to remain stain free.

People absorb perfluoroalkyl acids, which include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS), through daily exposure to these products, with the liver most affected, according to the researchers. The chemical is detected through blood tests.

Researchers at the Virginia University School of Medicine studied blood samples from children and teenagers between 2005 and 2006. They found their average concentration of PFOA was 69.2 nanograms per millilitre and their average PFOS concentration was 22.7 nanograms per millilitre.

They found that the higher a young person's PFOA concentration, the greater their levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, known as the more unhealthy form of cholesterol. Higher PFOS concentrations were associated with higher levels of total cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), known as the healthier form of cholesterol.

While LDL increases the growth of harmful plaque in the arterial walls of the body, HDL reduces it.

"PFOA and PFOS specifically, and possibly perfluoroalkyl acids as a general class, appear to be associated with serum lipids, and the association seems to exist at levels of PFOA and PFOS exposure that are in the range characterized by nationally representative studies," the researchers state in a news release.

The study is published in the September issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, 40 per cent of Canadians have high total cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.