Does junk science stick to Teflon?
A new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology purports to link perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs), including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) with chronic kidney disease. PFCs are used in the coatings of non-stick cookware.
Here’s the study abstract:
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a major public health problem. Identifying novel risk factors for CKD, including widely prevalent environmental exposures, is therefore important. Perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs), including perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate, are manmade chemicals that have been detected in the blood of more than 98% of the US population. Results from experimental animal studies have suggested that an association between PFCs and CKD is plausible. However, in humans, the relation between serum PFCs and CKD has not been examined. The authors examined the relation of serum PFCs and CKD in 4,587 adult participants (51.1% women) from the combined 1999–2000 and 2003–2008 cycles of the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey for whom PFC measurements were available. The main outcome was CKD, defined as a glomerular filtration rate of less than 60 mL/minute/1.73 m2. The authors found that serum levels of PFCs, including perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate, were positively associated with CKD. This association was independent of confounders such as age, sex, race/ethnicity, body mass index, diabetes, hypertension, and serum cholesterol level. Compared with subjects in quartile 1 (referent), the multivariable odds ratio for CKD among subjects in quartile 4 was 1.73 (95% confidence interval: 1.04, 2.88; P for trend = 0.015) for perfluorooctanoic acid and 1.82 (95% confidence interval: 1.01, 3.27; P for trend = 0.019) for perfluorooctane sulfonate. The present results suggest that elevated PFC levels are associated with CKD.
Note that there are many more risk factors for chronic kidney disease than considered in this study. In the context of the weak statistical associations reported, this study doesn’t link PFCs (or non-tick cookware) with chropnic kidney disease.